After three or four weekends of hard and unsuccessful turkey hunting in Central Oregon, Cheryl and I decided to engage Fins & Feather's Guide Service to get us into some late season Thunder Chickens. We signed up for a 1-day hunt over the Memorial Day weekend with Head Guide and Owner Craig "Gus" Augustynovich. We drove about 3.5 hours to the recently constructed Fins & Feather's Lodge in Roseburg, OR. The lodging was incredibly comfortable and had one of the most impressive collections of taxidermy that I had seen. We ate dinner, got our gear ready to go and went to bed early after Gus casually mentioned that he wanted to be on the road at 3:30am.
3:00am came quickly and after some coffee, we were able to sleep-stumble into the truck by 3:30am. Gus has been hunting the Roseburg area for turkey, deer and elk for over 30 years and has access to what seemed like every piece of land in the area. Although the land we were hunting was mostly private, these properties were vast and we would soon find out that tricking a mature tom into the range of a shotgun would not be easy. We drove about 45 minutes to the first ranch and set up our first stand in a tree line overlooking a meadow. We didn't make a call until the sun was about to rise and we could hear birds starting to come down from the roost. Across the bowl about 200 yards away in a group of trees, a gobbler started sounding off. We began making hen calls and getting responses from him and another gobbler about 500 yards away directly to our right. We converse for a while with both birds until the one from the right comes into view and is standing right between us and the other gobbler. Instead of coming towards us for some potential love making, he turns and runs into the trees to get into it with the other gobbler. They stop talking to us despite our best efforts so we decide to change stands.
We set up and leave a few more inactive stands and at his point, it's about noon. It's 80-85 degrees and we're in full camo. We've been up and hunting for about 9 hours now. Gus is working his ass off to put birds in front of us but they're uncooperative. We're hot, sweaty, wet from sitting in damp grass, thirsty, tired, hungry and a little disheartened that we haven't had a shot at a bird despite talking to them all morning. Ken's Sidewalk Cafe was the perfect place for a break. Between the three of us, we had buffalo burgers, elk burgers, hand cut fries, milkshakes and the biggest sodas they had. After refueling, we head towards the next stand.
The hunt might be over, but the journey was not. We still have an hour drive back to the lodge and another 3.5 hour drive home to Central Oregon. After 13 full hours of hunting, the drive home sounds exhausting, but the adrenaline from our hunt is keeping morale high. We hustle back to the lodge, take care of our birds, shower off a thick layer of sweat, dirt and poison oak and we head home after a long, hot, hard and extremely satisfying day. My bird had the longer beard but hers had the longer spurs. We'll call it a draw.
Thank you to Fins and Feather's Guide Service for their hospitality and use of their incredible lodge and a huge thank you to Craig "Gus" Augustynovich for working so hard to make sure we were successful. He went above and beyond what should reasonably be expected from a guide. Gus' number is 541-974-6567. Through F&F Guide Service, he guides Columbia Blacktail and Whitetail, Sturgeon, Salmon and of course, the Rio Grande Turkey.