Turkey Hunting: Data Mining

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If you are a sports junkie, you know that the world of sports is one that is obsessed with statistics.  No other sport is riddled with seemingly meaningless numbers and trends than America’s favorite pastime-baseball.  Today you not only have the standard runs batted in and strikeout figures, but also more recent additions such as WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).  While the inundation of numbers can be intoxicating and overwhelming at times, they give managers and players an upper hand in making key decisions throughout the course of the year.
For the past five years, I have made a conscious effort to keep accurate records of my spring turkey seasons.  While I must admit getting into the habit of doing so can be laboring at times, the records I have compiled have certainly opened my eyes as to how one can identify trends that span across seasons.
I keep my records on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, with the fields being the date, the area hunted, the number of turkeys I heard, their overall gobbling behavior, and the weather conditions I faced on that hunt.  I also write down any comments particular to the hunt as well as whether I killed a bird or had a good hunt.  One piece of data I have placed an emphasis on is barometric pressure.  I have become very inquisitive as to how barometric pressure affects wild turkey behavior, and I have good reason to be.
In the spring of 2004, I was hunting amidst four or five gobbling turkeys, which along with every other bird in the woods, were very vocal.  At approximately 7:00 AM, the woods fell silent.  For over an hour and half, you could have heard a pin drop from a mile away.  After reviewing the weather records for the morning upon arriving back home, I was shocked to find that the barometric pressure bottomed out at 7:00 AM sharp, despite the fact there was not a cloud in the sky.
My records over the past few years show that there is a direct correlation between gobbling activity and barometric pressure.  As expected, the low pressure periods that accompany bad weather systems have an impact on gobbling, but sudden swells or dips in pressure on blue sky days can affect gobbling with equal impact.
Another trend I have discovered over the course of a season is how long periods of “stagnant” weather, i.e. a ten day stretch of warm, sunny days, can shut down gobbling.  These periods typically happen towards the end of our season, which may have more to do with turkeys being in between the two main peaks of gobbling than the weather itself.  Regardless, every year our hunting lulls between April 10 and April 25, before picking back up to end the season.  I know these dates to be close to accurate because of the records I have kept over the past five years.
Keeping records can not only help you reflect on the trials and triumphs of past seasons, but can help you understand the bird you are hunting better, and tip you on trends that will assist you in future seasons.  Whether you keep records in a spreadsheet or in a simple hunt log, you should try to record your spring hunts, as it could make you a more successful hunter in springs to come.
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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