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Strut Report: Deep South Hunters Successful Despite Rough Weather

Strut Report: Deep South Hunters Successful Despite Rough Weather

Posted 2024-03-25  by  Stephanie Mallory

Hunters report that gobblers are sounding off on the roost, but quickly going silent once they hit the ground

Image: Phillip-friend-2a

Phillip Culpepper and Chris Quarles worked in a fired-up Florida gobbler before Quarles took him at 35 yards. Image provided by Phillip Culpepper

Southern turkey hunters say poor weather conditions and henned-up birds in Florida, Mississippi, and Texas made it tough last week, but patience and smart setups paid off.

Realtree’s David Blanton encountered less-than-ideal weather in South Texas where he hunted with Legends of the Fall co-hosts Mike and Bonnie McFerrin and their daughter Georgia-Kate opening week, which began March 16.

“It was cooler, windy and rainy at times, but despite that, Georgia-Kate killed a bird on Saturday midday that came into a jake decoy, and I killed one on Tuesday morning that came into a couple of hen decoys. We killed both birds with the CVA Scout .410. There was some gobbling on the roost and then sporadic gobbling after that, but overall, they were henned up pretty good. Thankfully, the weather has improved, so hopefully the hunting will too,” Blanton said.

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Realtree cameraman James Thompson, who was also in South Texas filming hunts, encountered birds that were strutting but not gobbling much due to the weather conditions, which were overcast and misting rain at times with highs in the mid-60s.

“The activity would pick around midday and the birds became killable, if you could locate one. The gobblers are just now starting to go after the hens,” Thompson said.

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Michael Pitts’ Texas tom put on a good show, despite the high winds and rain. Image provided by Michael Pitts

Realtree’s funny man Michael Pitts began hunting South Texas on March 17 and agrees with the others that “it was pretty rough.”

“It was raining on and off with high winds, which really made it tough to hear the birds. We did finally strike one that put on a good show for the camera. Minutes later, we had him at 20 yards, and I was able to put a good shot on him,” Pitts said.

Pitts and his group hunted in poor weather the following day as well, but without the wind.

“The birds were very talkative on the roost, and we had about seven gobblers and a bunch of hens fly down to about 100 yards from us. They eventually wandered away into the timber. The rain came in so we took a break and went to eat breakfast. After breakfast, we headed back and struck a bird not long after getting there. After two and a half hours of working him, we were finally able to coax him into shotgun range, and one of our clients made a great shot,” Pitts said.

Before leaving for Texas, Pitts scouted around his home in Georgia, where the season opens March 30 on private land and April 6 on public land.

“The birds in my home state have been a little slow all together, but a bunch of that is due to the weather, I think. They are workable, but you just need a little patience. Once the hens start nesting, and the gobblers get lonely, the hunting will only get better,” Pitts said.

Image: david-strut-2a

David Blanton’s Texas bird came in to a couple of hen decoys before he downed it with his CVA Scout .410. Image provided by David Blanton

Hunt Club and Spring Thunder Host Phillip Culpepper has been hunting in Central Florida since the North Zone opened on March 16. He said opening morning started off with lots of gobbling on the limb, but then it quickly got quiet.

“That evening, my dad, Roger Culpepper, self-filmed a lone gobbler as he came in silent to 20 yards, where he shot it. It was much of the same story all week, except for Monday, when we found a lone gobbler loafing in the shade mid-afternoon. We got a good setup and got him fired up. He gobbled six or seven times and came to 35 yards before my buddy Chris Quarles cut him down. Both of the hunts were filmed for Hunt Club and Spring Thunder.”

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Realtree video producer Matt Garger, who hunted Central Florida with the Culpeppers, said the birds gobbled good on the roost, but they were henned up.

“The gobblers wouldn’t break off the hens at all. They were strutting and gobbling the whole time, but weren't even all that interested in what the hens were doing and would let them break 100 yards, or so, apart at times. There was no gobbling past an hour after sun up,” Garger said.

Image: Roger-2

Roger Culpepper’s Florida bird came in silent before he took it at 20 yards. Image provided by Phillip Culpepper

Mark Clemons, owner of EVERGLADES ADVENTURES, says South Florida gobbler activity is gradually increasing and should continue to increase throughout the remainder of the season.

“This week on our properties, the hens have started to sit on nests. The available hens for gobblers have been reduced by approximately 30 percent. This has resulted in a gradual rise in the gobbling activity, which will continue for the remainder of our season. Our Jakes are now in large groups of 10 to 20 and roosting with the young hens (not old enough to breed) and separate from the older hens and adult gobblers. The adult gobblers have broken up into single or doubles and have started to gobble throughout the day. We've had clients experience as many as 30 birds in a single sitting with two harvesting three Osceola's in one morning from the same blind. Our last group of four harvested five beautiful birds. Nineteen days into our season our 24 clients have harvested 28 Osceolas.”

Mississippi’s season opened March 15 to rainy and windy conditions across much of the state as well.

Mark McKenna with McKenna Ranch Outfitters in Pachuta, Mississippi, said the birds in his neck of the woods are henned up and not saying much right now.

“They generally become more vocal in late March or early April,” McKenna said.

Alabama’s season opened March 25, and we should have reports coming in soon on turkey activity across the state.

Jeff Kelley, owner of Dream Lake Lodge in Livingston, Alabama, expects the action to be good, at least in his neck of the woods, where he said the toms are actively strutting and gobbling.

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