2011: A Season To Remember (and Forget)

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Before every spring season, turkey hunters have a picture in their minds of what they feel like their season will unfold.  Most turkey hunters are naturally optimistic, and being an optimist is undoubtedly a favorable trait to possess in the spring woods.

However, even the most pessimistic turkey hunter who predicts strings of silent mornings and heavy fog could not have seen the events of last year unfolding.  The spring of 2011 was considered by many to be one of the worst turkey seasons in recent history.  Heavy rain, inconsistent periods of “good weather,” and educated turkeys seemed to be common denominators from everyone the Wild Turkey Report staff talked to.  From Georgia to Kansas and all places in between, everyone was “singing the blues,” and some excellent turkey hunters who normally fill their tags with ease were forced to eat Butterballs instead of the real thing.

Late April and early May brought horrific severe weather outbreaks that killed hundreds and left entire towns across the southeast and Midwest in shambles.  With the loss of life and property, it reminded us all of how blessed we were to be able to have our lives and loved ones spared.  A poor spring turkey season paled in comparison to those tragic events.  Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims and their families who will come upon the one year anniversary in a few short months.

At this years’ NWTF Convention, the Wild Turkey Report staff was able to ask several pros about their 2011 seasons, and why they felt the season went so poorly.

Larry Shockey, 8x World Champion Two-Man Caller and 3x Grand National Two-Man Calling Champion, Willow Springs, Missouri
States Hunted in 2011: Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Tennessee
Remarks on 2011: “The thing I took away from 2011 was that many of the places that typically held turkeys in years past did not.  We had to focus more on “getting to know” the turkeys than we have in years past because they’d be in different areas than where we normally hunted them.  Kansas and Nebraska were productive, as they usually are, but the other states we hunted required us to work a little harder than we usually did to kill birds.”

Josh Grossenbacher, Champion Caller and Turkey Products Manager for Zink Calls, Port Clinton, Ohio
States hunted in 2011: Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Ontario
Remarks on 2011: “It was a very weird year for the Zink Calls crew, and the inclement weather was a big factor.  Everywhere we went, the gobblers were really grouped up, even on up into the middle and latter part of the season, so we never really encountered solo gobblers. Because of this, our Avian X jake decoy really earned its stripes in dealing with these bunched up gobblers.  Overall, it was a tough year, but we somehow prospered and killed some birds.”

Harold Knight, Legendary turkey hunter, Cadiz, Kentucky
Remarks on 2011: “2011 was just an average year for us.  We usually start in the south, and last year we started in Alabama.  We typically see that whatever trend we find down south follows up back north to Tennessee and Kentucky.  We had some cold weather in Kentucky.  We had some mornings that we got colder than we did during goose season.  With the cold weather a factor, it made it a very tough season, especially early on.”

Billy Yargus, Grand National Calling Champion, Ewing, Missouri
Remarks on 2011: “2011 was a tough year because one morning the turkeys would respond to calls effectively and the next they would fly down and head the other way.  One thing I think we had to focus on more in 2011 was identifying what type of turkey we were hunting.  What I mean by that is if you are hunting a dominant turkey or a group of subdominant or younger birds, you have to approach each type differently and call to each in a specific way.”

Larry Norton, World Champion Caller, Pennington, Alabama
Remarks on 2011: “2011 was a rough year.  Our weather (in Alabama) was so inconsistent that turkeys never really got into a groove.  Turkeys, like whitetails, need stretches of good weather to get on a roll.  The weather in 2011 was as bad as I can remember.  One day it would be windy, the next there would be rain, and the next fog.  There were not many bluebird days in 2011.”
Wild Turkey Report Staff
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