From the Woods: Late March in Dixie

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When daybreak temperatures are in the high twenties, it feels more like deer season than turkey season.  That is what many Deep South gobbler chasers faced the last full week of April, as cold temperatures and a decrease in gobbling activity added to already late spring states like Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia are experiencing.  With the turkeys and foliage a couple of weeks behind, the hunting has been a little tougher (or more competitive with few hens nesting and thus still bunched up with the gobblers), but brighter and warmer days are ahead. 

If anything, the late spring should “prolong” the season a bit.  Here in west Alabama, on an average year our turkeys have quit gobbling well or altogether by April 10, leaving us with an empty feeling until the second peak of gobbling returns during the last few days of our season.  This year, we could realistically have strong gobbling through the end of April, which would certainly be a nice respite from years past in which Alabama hunters would be better served heading north to Kentucky or Ohio for the end of April.  With the number of gobblers still in the woods, the hens on the verge of nesting, and the weather appearing to be headed towards a warmer and drier fifteen day stretch, the action should be really hot over the next two weeks in the Deep South.

Let’s check in with some other gobbler chasers to get their opinion on where the southern birds are!

Terence Williamson, Buhl, Alabama, Zink Calls pro-staffer

“Our turkey season got off to a rocky but successful start.  Youth weekend was successful, but I had my doubts at daylight that Saturday morning.  We heard a handful turkeys gobble on the limb, but they only gobbled once or twice a piece.  After they hit the ground, only a couple of birds continued to gobble and we could hear hens with these birds.  Equipped with a ground blind and the new Avian X Strutter, we set up on a food plot close to where we had heard a gobbler roosted before daylight and began to call.  A short time later we got a response, and 45 minutes and 3 or 4 gobbles later, I filmed a gobbler beat up the new strutting decoy before my friend’s five year old son harvested his first gobbler."

"Cold and wet weather kept the gobblers tight lipped for the most part during the first week of regular season in Pickens and Tuscaloosa Counties.  I talked to a few guys hearing decent gobbling, but most were hearing a few gobbles on the limb followed by silence after flydown.  After a few days of this, we began to catch on and waited the gobblers out until they began to gobble during the mid-morning hours.  This approach proved successful and began putting gobblers into gun range.  Although the turkeys were coming in, they still were saying much.  I was fortunate to call in 4 gobblers that either myself or friends of mine shot the first week of season and these 4 birds gobbled a combined total of 12 times."

"The last week of March felt more like turkey hunting weather.  The cooler temperatures began to give way to 45 degree mornings topping out in the low to mid 70s.  This weather got the turkeys gobbling more and we began to see the winter groups busting up.  As the gobbling increased, so did hunting success and our hunters were able to call up and shoot at three more gobblers during this week of the season.  If this week is a sign of things to come, the hunting during the first few weeks of April should be booming in my part of the world this year!”

Marty Fischer, Rincon, GA, TNT Outdoor Explosion

“A cold and sometimes wet early spring has really changed the habits of the turkey population along the lower Savannah River corridor.  There are reports of birds being taken in both Georgia and South Carolina in this area, but it appears that the weather has them a week to ten days behind in their breeding cycle.”

“I called in four toms and one hen to a food plot a week ago.  One tom strutted non-stop, while a second went in and out of strut.  Both birds gobbled on the ground.  Two more gobblers were nearby and never offered to strut or gobble.  The hen stayed about 70 yards out, and so did the gobblers.  The hen took all four of them out of the plot, but an hour later I called two of them back and harvested a nice three year old.”

“A week or so ago, the gobblers were quite vocal in the tree and not so much on the ground.  This week there is a shift in their behavior, as the gobbling takes place more on the ground than in the tree.  Unfortunately there's not much gobbling to be heard, which is a sign that gobblers are getting with their hens right off the limb.”

“A number of my club members are using decoys in food plots and are seeing gobblers strutting, but not gobbling once they see the decoy.  I've heard a number of stories from fellow hunters who tell me that the gobblers are hanging up out of gun range once they see the decoy.  While that is standard procedure for a mature gobbler, it tells me that the breeding cycle is in full bore right now, and gobblers are with hens most of the morning.”

“Look for better responses from gobblers in this area in a week to 10 days.  By the most of the hens will be bred and they will start spending more time on the nest.  That will free those gobblers up to look for more ladies.”

Alex Rutledge, Birch Tree, MO, Bloodline TV

(From April 3rd): “I have hunted Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and now Tennessee.  Every state that I have been to this year is behind in foliage and gobbling, but we did harvest three long beards in a day and a half in Florida, and passed one up in Alabama that we couldn't get on film.  I did kill one on film in Louisiana and as of this report have had one miss so far in Tennessee and passed two different longbeards up this morning because of no good footage. Both were timber hunts and they were 35 yards and less.”
 
“As far as calling tactics, I’ve been getting them going with hen yelping and once I get them interested, I get more aggressive, a little at a time, with flock talk i.e. gobbling, jake yelping, and hen calling.  Everywhere I have been they are henned up.”
Author:
Wild Turkey Report Staff
Wild Turkey Report is the internet's new destination for information on the sport of turkey hunting. Follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wildturkeyreport and on Twitter @wildturkeyreprt!
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