Strut Report: Northern, Plains Turkeys Warming Up Despite Winter Weather

Strut Report: Northern, Plains Turkeys Warming Up Despite Winter Weather

Posted 2022-04-13T08:01:00Z

Although the weather is a bit shaky, good things are just ahead in the turkey pipeline for northern hunters, while hunters on the Great Plains are already knocking down birds.

Northern and plains turkeys are acting right despite recent winter weather. Image by Shutterstock / Jim Cumming

I'm riding the coattails of a successful hunt in South Dakota on tribal land that ended with a gorgeous Merriam's gobbler. During that outing, the flock I took my bird from consisted of 12 toms and eight hens. The toms were tolerating one another as they do all winter. They gobbled at my calls but wouldn't come in. So, I resorted to using a fan and spot-and-stalk tactics to get it done.

Back home in Wisconsin, time-period A is just one week away, and our two-day youth hunt opens this Saturday. I'll be mentoring two boys during the youth hunt, plus I'll be hunting next week on my time-period A tag. So, I'm prospecting every morning by parking in select places to listen for gobbling before dawn, then cruising by ag fields after daybreak to look for strutters.

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Further, I'm fortunate to have roosting trees right out my back door, so I get to observe turkeys coming and going daily for most of the year. Our snow has recently melted, and that has turkeys venturing out from their wintering grounds. I'm still seeing birds out back and while out scouting, but flocks are splitting up and spreading out.

This is causing inconsistencies in day-to-day activity and sightings. For example, I had six jakes and one hen roost in the pines behind my house one evening, and the following evening, three toms and a handful of hens roosted there, but the jakes did not. A few of the ag fields near home that held winter flocks since December have gone vacant. The boys and I will probably have to work for our birds. So be it.

McDougal recently took an early bird on the plains. Moving forward, for at least the next week, he believes the intensity of gobbling action will hinge on weather. Image by Rebecca McDougal

The weather has been all over the board in the Midwest, and the Eastern subspecies can be quite finicky in poor weather, especially this early in the season. We've seen a lot of high winds and precipitation already this spring, and although I've observed strutting and gobbling, the birds aren't exactly cranked up. That'll come when the weather warms and the winds subside.

Out in Montana, Levi Johnson of Doggin' With Levi shared that birds are still in big flocks. The weather has been horrible this week. The opener will likely be somewhat tough. Keys to success will be killing them as soon as they fly off the roost or getting in front of a flock and waiting for them to filter by. Using a big decoy spread will probably help, too.

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Meanwhile, an industry acquaintance recently started his turkey tour. He nailed two birds during his Nebraska hunt, one bird in South Dakota last week and two birds in Kansas over the weekend. All were harvested with a bow at close range in the decoys, meaning they were highly responsive. His success across three states indicates that action is really climbing in the Plains States.

I expect the intensity of the coming week's action will hinge on weather. Although you can kill turkeys in just about any weather, the best gobbling action will transpire on the warmer, calmer mornings. If winds are high and precipitation falling, you'll likely have to park a blind somewhere along a flock's daily route and just wait.

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