|There is some dispute as to whether the wild turkey is indigenous to California. Some claim that there is evidence of turkeys in California about the time of the last Ice Age. But the bottom line is that the present population is due to deliberately planted birds and domestic birds gone wild. The State of California in Monterey County, for example, the Breeding Bird Atlas project traced the local established population to an aggressive program of introductions by Calif. Fish & Game beginning in 1965; at least 361 turkeys were released in the 30 years since. The question of whether the turkey is indigenous is important to the argument on whether they are beneficial or a pest. Turkeys presently exist (in significant numbers) and their status should be determined on their merits – not their history. Even assuming that they were indigenous, their numbers had to been reduced to very low number for a long time. Enough history.
I was first introduced to the Morro Bay turkeys several years ago on this same golf course. My brother-in-law, Terry, and I were golfing Dairy Creek (very near Morro Bay) when we came across a dozen or so birds grazing near the sixth-hole tee box. The females were being escorted and protected by three toms, one boss and two lieutenants. The toms thought we were interested in their hens and aggressively block our approach and incidentally our access to the next hole of the golf course.
This might seem trivial to you, but a tom turkey in full ire is an intimidating sight. With it feathers in full ruff a tom stands close to five feet tall and is nearly as wide. The turkeys’ stance may have been pure bluff, but fortunately there were four of us (Terry and I and two others) and we had bags full of (golf) clubs. With three of us threatening the toms into backing off and the forth hitting his golf ball, we all were able to tee off and continue our round of golf. I later reported the encounter with the turkeys to the guy at the front desk and his answer was “this is their mating season – in a couple of week the season will be over and the turkeys won’t bother anybody”
Now, several years later, the offspring of these same turkeys are all over the place. At any one time, from the driving range, I could spot eighty or a hundred birds having a conference. Many of the toms had their tails erected fanwise in display: strutting for the attention of the females and to intimidate the other males.
Over the last several weeks there have been times when a number of these birds have wandered onto the driving range, oblivious to the golf balls inadvertently hit in their direction – and sometimes the balls are aimed at them. I have yet to see any of the birds hit or even force to break stride. Hitting a moving target at 150 yards with a golf ball isn’t easy. I have seen deer on other driving ranges get hit – they just look up in contempt and continue to graze.