Georgia turkeys have been on fire, Kentucky youth hunters kick things off, birds henned up for North Texas opener
Turkey season is in full swing in parts of the Deep South with reports of fired-up gobblers in some states and silent birds in others. We're hearing about tough conditions and henned-up birds in Texas, but those who manage to be in the right place at the right time are still bagging toms.
Realtree.com Editor Will Brantley and his family hunted the Lone Star State's north zone last week, where Brantley reported challenging hunting.
The hunting was been extremely tough," he said. "Birds were henned up for the most part, but even solo gobblers weren't been really responsive. We hunted daylight to dark all week for a few opportunities, he said. Still, they did find success after several great hunts.
Jason Hardin, wild turkey program leader with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says that so far, the turkey success in the state is a mixed bag, depending on the hunter, the bird and the location.
It's just turkey hunting in Texas. If you put in enough time, you will find a hot bird, Hardin said.
He explains that that the birds and their behavior are closely tied to winter and spring moisture, which is different depending on where you go in the state.
Most of the Rio Grande wild turkey range is still in severe to exceptional drought, which is a vast improvement from last year. Farther east, we are seeing a lot of green grasses mixed with wild flowers, which is a good indication on moisture. There is also short time lag as one moves south to north across the state on green-up and turkey-breeding activity (typically), Hardin said.
He says some birds are still henned-up, but if you're at the right place and the right time, you'll get a bird to run in fast to the call. He said some windy days have reduced gobbling (or a hunter's ability to hear gobbling), but the birds still come in quietly.
The south zone opened on March 18, but most of the hunter success data will not be available until 2024 for the 2022-23 season.
We've held two hunts on our James E. Daughtrey WMA in McMullen County. On March 21-23 there were 27 hunters with a 30% success rate and on March 28-30 there were 21 hunters with a 38% success rate. Most of our other WMA draw hunts are either ongoing (Kerr WMA) or kick off in the coming weeks, Hardin said.
He says two out of seven youth hunters harvested on youth weekend, with reports that the birds really weren't interested in calls at that time.
For this hunt, we've had two birds harvested so far and reports of everyone seeing birds and that they are very vocal right now. There were several missed opportunities or birds responding to calls but not moving in close enough. It was hot yesterday and windy today, so not the best weather conditions either. Gobblers seem to be in small groups and hens either pairs or singles already, Hardin said.
Realtree's Tyler Jordan says the turkey hunting in Georgia has been on fire this past week.
Birds have been hot and responding well to calls. Most gobblers seem to be by themselves. Only a couple have had hens with them. We were able to get a turkey with Drew Carroll from Seek One off the roost two mornings ago and yesterday morning, sweepstakes winner Jake Snyder had one pitch from the roost right into his lap. I have to pinch myself and realize it hardly every happens like that, Jordan said.
Avid turkey hunter and wildlife photographer Tes Jolly says it's been quite the week on her East Central Alabama farm. Gobbling has been sporadic with some mornings silent and others where birds were very vocal on the roost but quiet after flydown.
Tes and her husband, Ron, hunted in an area with little gobbling although they spotted a tom tagging along behind a hen in the afternoon.
Next morning, he didn't make a sound at all. Our friends enjoyed a beat-down spectacle watching two mature gobblers square off and fight, Tes said.
On another hunt, Ron took a friend out in an attempt to get him his first gobbler. They raised a tom in the late morning that came within range, but his friend didn't have a clear shot.
We're seeing single hens around the farm, so laying is definitely underway. Once incubation starts, there will be some lonely toms looking for love. Although we didn't have success, our friends reported having great success on hunts where gobblers came to calls early in the morning," Tes said.
Kentucky's turkey season doesn't open until April 15, but its youth weekend was held April 2-3. Realtree's Michael Pendley says that despite bad weather, the total harvest for youth season was way up over last year.
Youth took 1,923 this year verses around 1,400 last year. The percentage of adult birds versus jakes was up this year as well with jake harvest making up just 12% of total harvest for 2023, Pendley said.
He says the birds on his Kentucky farm are still flocked up.
Gobbling was strong on the roost, but it got quiet during the day due to high winds. Trail cameras and scouting trips are starting to pick up some toms with scattered hens, so some flocks have started to bust up around here in the past few days. A friend of ours picked up a strutting tom with a hen in mating position on a trail camera yesterday, and I watched a tom breed a hen while scouting late last week, so breeding has definitely started. We've seen several jakes already this spring, suggesting a good hatch last year. We've had unusually high winds for the past several weeks, making accurate gauging of gobble levels tough."
Realtree's Josh Honeycutt says he had the pleasure of helping a Kentucky youth hunter tag a bird during the youth weekend.
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We set up with five decoys (a strutter, 1/4 strut jake, alert hen, feeding hen, and lying hen). Three groups of birds were roosted around us, but they didn't gobble well on the roost or on the ground. I called twice with no response. About an hour later, one of the groups entered the field. The tom saw the decoys, left its hens, and marched 300 yards to our spread. It crossed two fences, a drainage ditch, and county road to get to us. Overall, the turkeys are starting to gobble and strut more, and should be good and fired up by the time the Kentucky regular season opens, Honeycutt said.
Florida's season has been underway for weeks and Buddy Welsch, Florida's wild turkey management program coordinator, says the turkeys are behaving normally for this time of year with gobbling and mating activities.
There are many reports of successful hunters. The season closes south of Hwy. 70 on April 9 and the remainder of the state closes on April 23, Welsch said.
North Carolina's season opened April 8 and Tennessee is next in the lineup to open April 15.
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