The weather has slowed some of the action, but southern turkey hunters continue to find lonely longbeards
Turkey season is open in every state throughout the South and the reports on gobbler behavior are still mixed. While most of the hunters we've spoken too are experiencing success, some are complaining of quiet birds that require patterning to get a shot, while other hunters are reporting fired-up, noisy toms that are primed for the taking.
Hunt Club and Spring Thunder Host Phillip Culpepper had a busy week hunting across Alabama, Texas, and Tennessee.
In Alabama we killed three longbeards overall. Saturday and Sunday were good, but the turkeys were tight-lipped. We had to get close in their bubble to make them strike, but once we got them going, they stayed pretty fired up, Culpepper said.
He said weather conditions made Texas a tough hunt, with hot temperatures that ended up turning cold by the end of their hunt. The toms didn't gobble much at all, but that didn't stop Culpepper and his gang. They patterned the birds and got the job done, bagging four of them before it was all said and done.
After Texas, Culpepper and Midwest Whitetail's Drake Lamb headed to Tennessee where they hunted with country singer Daryl Singletary's children during the youth season.
It was like coming home. The toms lit it up for the youth season with lots of gobbling. The turkeys are just starting to break up, so opening weekend should be incredible. Saturday morning, Drake and I took Nora Singletary out for her first hunt. She missed three times. We had seven longbeards under 15 yards at one point. That afternoon, I took Jonah Singletary and Drake took Mercer Singletary. They were both successful on gobbling turkeys coming to the call.
Culpepper said they're headed back to Georgia for a few days, then will return to Tennessee for the Tennessee Governor's Hunt.
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They should have some good opportunities in Tennessee, according to Roger Shields, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency wild turkey program coordinator. He says for the past couple weeks, the gobblers have been actively displaying and strutting around with groups of hens.
Gobbling seems to be going strong. Of late, I've seen a couple solitary hens repeatedly in the same general location, suggesting that they are nesting but not yet incubating, Shields said.
Realtree's funny man Michael Pitts says he started the week off in Texas with some good luck, despite tough conditions.
We heard a lot of gobbling the first morning, probably 20 or more different birds. Most birds had hens with them, but were responsive to calls. There were nine different strutters in one group with a few hens. After about 30 minutes, we were able to call two gobblers off those hens and get a shot. It was a great morning, Pitts said.
The second morning Pitts and his buddies returned to the same spot.
It all started off the same way as it had the previous morning. The birds were very responsive to calls, but still had hens with them as well, and we all know that can be a battle. There were four strutters and a few hens in one group, and we were able to get one of the birds to break free and commit. He came in very cautiously, but we were able to pull the trigger at about 35 yards, Pitts said.
He then headed to Georgia where he was able to put a tag on a good bird.
"The weather has been decent, but it was a little cold early week. Seems like a lot of birds are henned up right now and that can make it a bit tough. Patience and persistence is key this time of year. We did strike one bird that was alone, and he came in quick, but he didn't exactly do what we needed him to do. We're off to Kentucky next week."
Realtree's Tyler Jordan says he hasn't had a chance to hunt much this week in his home state of Georgia, but during the couple of days he managed to get out there, the birds did not cooperate.
They would gobble good in the morning and then shut up after the first hour or so. I think this may have to do with some of the cooler weather we had. Hopefully the hunting will be better by the weekend, Jordan said.
We've not yet received reports for Kentucky's opening day, which was April 15, but Zak Danks, turkey-grouse coordinator for Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the turkeys were vocal on the roost and after fly-down during the state's youth-only season on April 1-2.
We managed a 30% better youth harvest than last year despite some windy weather on that Saturday, so I'm pretty stoked for the general season starting this weekend. I've continued to hear good gobbling on the roost while walking my dogs before work in the mornings plus considerable gobbling at evening fly-up, Danks said.
He says he hopes hunters will be successful and capitalize on the better hatch the state experienced two summers ago.
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