Marty Fischer: Late April Hunt Report

click to view more photos
What a wild and crazy turkey season it has been across the country!  Not a day goes by that I don't get mixed reviews about what the birds are doing in someone's neck of the woods.  I will say that most hunters I talk to are reporting success or at least having opportunities to harvest a bird. 
I am very fortunate to be able to hunt a good many days in different parts of the country, and I am seeing a consistent pattern everywhere - turkeys got started very early in the south, and lots of hunters are scratching their heads daily trying to figure out just where they are in the breeding cycle. 
Here are three locations where I've hunted in the past couple of weeks and my observations for which transitional phase they're in.
Southeast Georgia
This is home, so I get to hunt or hear about hunting pretty much every day.  I can tell you that the birds are inconsistent from county to county.  Most of the hens have been bred, and it's not uncommon to see bachelor groups of gobblers in many different habitats.  There are still single birds that will gobble on the limb, but not so much on the ground, at least early in the morning.
One of my friends told me that he had six birds gobbling well up into the morning on April 25.  Another killed a bird on the 25th after hearing the bird gobble at least 75 times on the limb and then on the ground.  That same hunter also told me that on April 21, he saw a group of seven gobblers with no hen in sight.  Go figure. 
My season in Georgia has been good.  I've taken two birds and called in a dozen others that resulted in five kills and two misses for friends and family.  I don't hear gobbling every time I go out, but when I do, the birds seem to want to work to the call.  There are exceptions to this, but most birds will work if you can get them to gobble on the ground.  I called two gobblers to the gun the morning of April 23.  They gobbled on the ground and not on the limb.  We've still got more than two weeks of the season ahead.  In most years, the last ten days of the season are very good, but I'm not so sure that will be the case this year.  I hope I'm wrong.  
South Carolina Lowcountry
Just across the Savannah River from my home is the South Carolina Lowcountry.  It is so named because of the tens of thousands of acres of river bottoms and pine plantations.  The land is flat with very little terrain and it is home to some very "bad" Eastern gobblers.  I've heard varied reports from the region, and those who have more dry, upland type areas to hunt have had the most success. 
I managed to take a great seven bearded bird in a food plot surrounded by a Carolina bay a planted pines early in the season.  At my club, which borders the river, we heard 18 different birds ten days before the season.  Since the season started, we've heard less than ten birds gobble the entire month of April.  The gobblers left the swamp for the hill when the hens did, and this season that departure for nesting was very early.
The birds are starting to filter back into the area, as one of my members hunted on the property April 21 and heard five different birds.  I went there yesterday (38 degrees) and heard none on the limb or ground through 9:30 a.m.
The season in SC ends on May 1, so maybe things will improve a bit now that they are moving back to into the river swamps. 
North Central Texas
I returned from Henrietta, TX and the Clay County Turkey Fest on Sunday.  My TV partner and I were guests of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce for the World Turkey Hunting Championship.  The event consisted of three person teams from seven outdoor television shows.  The teams went head to head to see who could harvest the biggest bird over a three day hunt period.  Teams were limited to two birds, so everyone had to be careful about which birds they shot.
I've been to Texas a number of times and I love to hunt the Rio Grande turkey.  They tend to gobble a lot and they will come a long distance to a call.  At least they did every other time I went there.  This season turned out to be quite a bit different.
First of all, the birds got a very early start in the breeding process.  In 2011 ranchers in the area were dealing with extreme drought and fires.  After seven inches of rain early in the year, those same ranchers are seeing a bumper crop of summer grazing.  Prairie grasses are waist high pretty much everywhere, and the turkeys really don't like it.  There are far too many predators in the area, especially coyotes.
Most teams found it tough sledding at the Turkey Fest and there were some excellent hunters on hand.  For instance, Team Mojo Outdoors brought in Preston Pittman and Team NWTF featured three time Grand National Friction Champion Bobby Woods. 
In most instances hunters at the event reported that gobblers would gobble on the limb but shut down completely once on the ground.  Some teams reported hearing lots of birds while others didn't fare so well. 
My partner Todd Cast and I had excellent success the first morning of the event. I located three gobblers and called them to 14 yards gobbling all the way.  We found no birds that would play over the next two days.  One day it had rained early and the winds were in the 30 to 40 mph range.  No birds were taken that day by the Celebrity/Pro Teams.
The next morning was cool with a light wind early.  We heard birds, but they were consistently difficult to get to commit.  If they gobbled on the ground, they would hold their position, just like Mother Nature says they're supposed to.  Frankly, most teams struggled to kill birds due to early breeding and excessive vegetation in that region of Texas. 
For the record, Team TNT Outdoor Explosion (my team) took second place in the Celebrity/Pro Division of the event.  We needed 1/4 inch more of spur or one more inch of beard for the win.  Maybe next year!
Marty Fischer
Marty Fischer is the host and executive producer of TNT Outdoor Explosion seen each week on the Pursuit Channel. He is a professional wingshooter and instructor, a book author, video host, gun club designer and avid turkey hunter. He is the author of two books, "The Gun Digest Book of Shotgunning" and "Limbhangers and 4-Letter Words - The Trials and Tribulations of a Turkey Fanatic."
Related Articles

Deprecated: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in /mnt/stor13-wc1-dfw1/381872/ on line 66
April 9, 2012, 7:00 AM
March 23, 2012, 10:00 AM
March 27, 2012, 7:00 AM
March 28, 2012, 7:00 AM
April 5, 2012, 8:00 AM
April 6, 2012, 8:00 AM
April 16, 2012, 12:30 PM