Strut Report: Plains Flocks Busting Up, Early Breeding in Midwest

Strut Report: Plains Flocks Busting Up, Early Breeding in Midwest

Posted 2023-04-18T10:45:00Z

Youth, early archery hunters finding success, but dominant birds are henned-up

Turkey movement across the Midwest is erratic due to a recent heat wave. Image by Kerry WixThe massive heat wave across the Midwest last week melted the snow I mentioned in the previous week's report. The influx of exposed ground has turkeys moving more erratically. My backyard Wisconsin birds are less predictable in their roosting and movement habits. Two of the six gobblers that wintered here are guarding a dozen hens, and my wife and I observed a satellite tom try to swoop in. The other two ran him off.

That subordinate tom then moved off about 150 yards and displayed incessantly for 20-30 minutes. He would've been ultra-susceptible to calling and decoys, but the season is not quite here. We also observed the two flock leaders single out a hen and corral her. I assume she was almost ready to breed. She even laid down in front of one of the toms, but he didn't mount her. I expect lots of similar activity to transpire over the next two weeks, and although temperatures will be slightly lower, it looks decent for April.

As I write this, it's the day before Wisconsin's youth hunt. I'll be taking my nephew Timothy. We'll be hunting a completely different flock down the road, which I've been scouting. Unlike my backyard birds, they've been roosting in the same location nightly. We'll be setting a blind within 150-200 yards of the roost and placing a jake and one or two hen decoys.

Just to the west in Minnesota, Chad Collins, an official measurer with Minnesota Official Measurers, found success on opening day. Currently, toms are gobbling on the roost and hitting the ground with noisy, talkative hens, Collins said. Then, they're going quiet and following the hens, gobbling only occasionally. I got a tom with the bow coming back toward the roost. The toms weren't gobbling, but the hens were responding and led them right into range.

Eleven-year-old Keira Harnois hunted in South Dakota with her father, Thomas, and tagged this triple-bearded gobbler. Image by Thomas Harnois

Thomas Harnois of South Dakota recently took his daughter, Keira, turkey hunting in the snow. It was the first nice day following a blizzard that dumped 14 inches, Harnois detailed. The roads were bad, but Keira insisted that we go hunting. We arrived mid-morning where I'd recently seen birds. We spotted a flock in the distance heading for some timber. We cut the distance and then yelped to get a location on the toms. One gobbled back instantly, so we set up. Things were quiet for the next 30 minutes.

Keira asked where the birds were, Harnois continued. I told her they were probably coming in silent. Not three minutes later, a tom gobbled. Soon, two toms appeared and were strutting and gobbling like crazy 10 yards away. The one she took had three beards and 1 5/8-inch spurs!

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Realtree Ambassador Joel Burham of Whitetail Fit has been out looking and hunting in Nebraska when he can. He reported that flocks finally started busting up given the recent warm weather. The toms and jakes are leaving the hens around 9-10 a.m., he said, and then they're meeting back up before roosting. Mid-morning is a great time to call in a bird right now, and that's when they seem to be most vocal. For decoys, I'd recommend a partial- or full-strut jake over a laydown hen.

This coming week, I believe the henned-up gobblers in the Midwest will continue to be mostly quiet once on the ground. However, I expect the gobbling intensity from the satellite toms will continue rising. If you're hunting flocks led by dominant toms, your best bet will likely be to call in the hens or set up along their daily routine. If you can find satellite toms out on the prowl, calling them in shouldn't be too difficult.

Dominant gobblers are pretty henned-up in Minnesota and Wisconsin, although the satellites are on the move. Image by Darron McDougal

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