Turkey Hunting: Better Late Than Never

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At some point in the turkey season, the sport we hold dear becomes an exercise in endurance.  It is easy to maintain our enthusiasm early in the season, as we are fueled by months of pent up excitement and loud-mouthed, eager gobblers.  Yet as the season wears on, we almost have to force ourselves to wake up at 5 AM.  We tire from dealing with educated and/or quiet birds.  The rising temperatures start to wear us down both physically and mentally.  We begin giving out of gas in the fourth quarter.

The motivation, for me at least, is that many times the end of the season can be a feast for those that are still in the turkey woods.  Turkeys do not have an itinerary; they follow an internal clock that only Mother Nature can read.  As a result of this, there are numerous peaks and valleys in the breeding and gobbling cycle, and turkeys are typically not "done" with some form of breeding activity until well after most spring seasons close.

We have all seen turkeys strutting with hens weeks after our season has closed, and heard turkeys gobbling their heads off while we are fishing in the early summer.  So if turkeys are exhibiting that sort of behavior "that late," are they really "done" while the season is in its latter stages?


Hens are not always bred on the first go-round, and younger hens in particular typically need a second copulation.  Researchers have found that there tends to be a second defined peak in gobbling around three to four weeks from the first peak in gobbling, which coincides with nesting hens.  As discussed later, this peak has always been very good for me personally.

However, due to less available hens and less gobblers to rattle the woods, the late season valleys (in particular the one between the first and second peak) are more defined-and disheartening-than an off-day in the early season may be.  I'm as guilty as anyone of having two quiet mornings in a row and proclaiming the season over with, only to have an incredible hunt on the third day.  If you do not remain optimistic, you'll let a hot, steamy, quiet late season morning get the best of you, and you'll hang it up until next year.

You simply have to love the late season for what it is.  You're going to hear fewer turkeys and they are going to be more difficult.  But they aren't "done" by any stretch-they are just finicky.  You will have trouble hearing them on the limb as well as on the ground due to the heavy foliage, so you have to cover more ground.  They are going to be savvy, so you typically cannot cutt and cackle them all the way to the gun.  But as long as the season is in, they are still available.

For as long as I can remember, I have noticed and experienced a defined peak around the end of our season in Alabama.  Starting around April 25th, it seems as if the reset button is punched and turkeys revert to their early season nuances.  Large mixed flocks suddenly appear, and gobblers tend to get very vocal and responsive. 

The 2011 season was no exception.  On April 28, two days before the season went out, I called in a group of three cranked up longbeards and six hens for a close friend, only to watch him miss one at 34 yards.  Less than an hour later and a quarter-mile away, we had another turkey heading in our direction, gobbling at seemingly every step.  With the bird on my side of the tree and him attempting to leave, I squeezed the trigger and filled my fifth and final Alabama tag just in the nick of time.  It was easily the best gobbling hunt of the year.

The late season hunter has a few advantages at his disposal.  First of all, he will be able to get closer to roosted turkeys because of the dense foliage.  Secondly, he will likely have fewer hunters to compete with, as many have either filled their tags or have given up.  While both of these advantages have offsetting disadvantages, they are still opportunities to be exploited for those who are willing to “keep after them” when most hunters hang it up.

Persistence and attitude are two traits that the elite turkey hunters all seem to possess in spades.  Maybe they are fueled by an inner desire to succeed; a desire to not let a twenty pound bird beat them.  Whatever fuels them, it is a potion that every turkey hunter must consume in order to be successful in the late season.  Stop “going through the motions” and understand that once the season is over, it’s over, so you better strike while the iron is hot.  It is better to kill a turkey late in the season than to waste available tags any day.
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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