Nesting Turkeys are Laying Low

Nesting turkey hens lay low during their nesting periods, often in shallow dirt depressions surrounded by moderately woody vegetation that conceals the nest.

Question: I know this is the courtship and nesting season for turkeys and that they roost in trees at night, but where do they nest and for how long? I’m seeing lots of toms right now but not many hens and have not found any sitting on nests. How soon before the newly hatched chicks will be out and on their own? Thanks for any insight. (Dwayne J.)

Answer: In most areas, nests can be found in a shallow dirt depression surrounded by moderately woody vegetation that conceals the nest. Hens look for locations close to food and water and with ample cover to safely conceal the hen and her poults (chicks) once hatched. Hens are very leery of predators, such as coyotes and fox, but do leave the nest unattended for brief periods to feed and drink.

Hens will lay a clutch of 10 to 12 eggs during a two-week period, usually laying one egg per day. She will incubate her eggs for about 28 days, occasionally turning and rearranging them, until they are ready to hatch.

A newly-hatched flock must be ready to leave the nest to feed within 12 to 24 hours. Poults eat insects, berries and seeds while adults will eat anything from acorns and berries to insects and small reptiles. Turkeys usually feed in early morning and in the afternoon.

For more information on wild turkeys, check the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) hunting Web site at and the National Wild Turkey Federation Web site at

Free Fishing Group Permits
I have some sponsors interested in helping host some fishing events to benefit military men and women who have returned from duty overseas and now have combat-related injuries or disabilities. Can any special provisions be made to waive license fees for the troops during these hosted fishing trips? What about for these veteran individuals who just want to go fishing on their own? Would you be so kind to explain what opportunities there may be and who I would contact? (Randy H., La Granada)

Answer: Yes, there are “Free Group Fishing Permits” available allowing for free fishing under certain conditions and the requirements for these permits are very clear and specific (F&G Code Section 7151 [d-e]). With this approved form, the following persons may fish under this authority:

* Mentally or physically disabled persons
* Active duty military personnel receiving inpatient care in a military or Veteran’s Administration hospital
* Veterans with service connected disabilities

The Fish and Game Code 7151(d) allows for these special sport fishing licenses to be issued to groups of mentally or physically handicapped persons under the care of:

1. A certified federal, state, county, city, or private licensed care center, or
2. Organizations exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code, or
3. Schools or school districts.

Employees of private licensed care centers, tax-exempt organizations, schools or school districts are also exempt from Section 7145 only while assisting physically or mentally disabled persons fishing under the authority of a valid license issued pursuant to this section.

For more on free and reduced-fee fishing licenses, please go to The Free Group Fishing Permit application forms can be obtained through our License and Revenue Branch office in Sacramento.

Question About the Wording of the Sturgeon Report Card
I have a question about sturgeon. The sturgeon report card says I must stop fishing once I take a legal sized sturgeon, so does this mean I am then done fishing for the day, even for other species? Thanks for any help. (Jeff D.)

Answer: Regulations prohibit you from continuing to fish for sturgeon that day once you have caught and tagged one on that specific day. This includes even catch and release fishing for them. If you do catch another sturgeon accidentally, you must immediately release it. The best thing to do is once you have a keeper sturgeon on board, move to another area and change your rigging and methods so that you are targeting different species. Once you have caught and tagged your yearly limit of three sturgeon, you cannot fish for sturgeon again until the next year.

Tools vs. Hands
Can we use tools to pry mussels off the rocks and pier pilings or must we pick them just by hand? (Tran N.)

Answer: You may not use any tools for the take for saltwater mussels. The only methods allowed for mollusks (including mussels) are by hook-and-line (which probably won’t work) or by hand (FGC 29.10[a]).

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at

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