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Strut Report: Southern Birds On Fire Despite Heavy Wind and Rain

Strut Report: Southern Birds On Fire Despite Heavy Wind and Rain

Posted 2024-04-01  by  Stephanie Mallory

Some regions reporting great numbers and incredible hunts

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Hunters encountered active toms strutting and gobbling when Alabama’s turkey season got underway. Image by On the Wildside

Despite poor weather conditions across much of the South this past week, hunters are still mostly reporting fired-up gobblers and plenty of opportunities to bag birds.

Alabama’s season opened March 25 to rainy and windy conditions that put a damper on the opener, but according to reports, gobbling and other turkey activity has been good.

“Turkeys gobbled well all youth season,” said Will Dixon, a member of Turkeys for Tomorrow (TFT), a turkey conservation group dedicated to saving turkeys through sustainable, scientific solutions. “The opening day of the general season saw overcast and windy conditions throughout the state. I’m starting to see lone gobblers and hens by themselves in the afternoon.”

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Tes Jolly, a wildlife photographer from Tuskegee, Alabama, said during the past week or so, hens have been separating into smaller spring groups, and mature gobblers are being seen with them.

“There’s been gobbling most every day on the roost and especially once all of the birds are on the ground,” she said. “There’s been lots of chatter from hens on the roost and on the ground as well. From various friends’ hunting reports, most enjoyed success the first day, and many are optimistic that turkey numbers in their area appear on the upswing. This is good news, as more hunters and land managers have been increasing their management efforts in the off-season in relation to providing critical nesting and brooding areas for hens and poult rearing.”

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Southern gobblers are responding to calls and working to find hens. Image by Tes Randle Jolly

Tes’ husband and TFT member Ron Jolly also reported that the big Alabama flocks he commonly encounters have split into smaller groups, as gobblers work to build harems of hens.

“The springtime dispersal is happening now,” he said. “Right now, you’ll hear the gobblers, but you’ll have to deal with the hens.”

HUNT CLUB and SPRING THUNDER host Phillip Culpepper has been in Alabama hunting with River Dan and the University of Montevallo’s Outdoor Scholars Program.

“Once the weather cleared up, the action picked up,” he said. “We’ve killed three in the the past three days. We welcomed the success after getting our butts kicked in southern Georgia for the youth season. We could barely find a turkey until we crossed the river.

“Of the three birds killed, one came running in, not saying a word. The second gobbled decent and took his time but finally swung us wide to take a look. The third gobbled well and came right to us off the roost. Each day has been better. I’m looking forward to better weather for sure.”

Realtree’s Tyler Jordan took his brother, Colton, hunting for Georgia’s youth opener, which began March 23. Three strutting and gobbling longbeards came in from behind them at 50 yards, but the hunters couldn’t get turned around in time to shoot.

Daniel Thomas, Realtree’s director of video production, filmed Tyler and Colton’s hunt and said, “The turkeys were on fire this weekend for the Georgia youth opener. It seems like they are still flocked up, but the gobblers are responding to calls.”

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Bad weather hasn’t stopped hunters from bagging birds across the South. Image provided by Turkeys for Tomorrow

In southern Texas, where the season has been open since March 16, there are reports of big numbers of longbeards that are willing to play. Dan Braman, owner of Mellon Creek Outfitters, near Corpus Christi, said results so far could hardly be better. The 18 clients he’s entertained to date have recorded 100% success, many tagging out within the first hour of the day.

“The turkey numbers are great, and the hunting is incredible,” he said. “There are tons of jakes, too, so next year should be outstanding. South Texas is on fire.”

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Jake Hardin, wild turkey program leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife, said across the South Zone, jake mobs are pushing older gobblers around in some areas after a great hatch and subsequent recruitment this past summer.

“There are only a few 2-year-old birds due to the 2022 drought, but lots of 3-plus-year-old gobblers around due to low harvest rates and high annual survival in Texas,” he said. “Gobblers are still following small groups of hens, and some older males are fighting. South Texas looks great, with lots of green herbaceous cover. Hens are in great physical condition with the early green-up, and the birds that are not already laying eggs or incubating nests will begin in the coming days and weeks. It is shaping up to be another great nesting season across the Rio Grande wild turkey range in Texas, with only a few exceptions.”

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Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee will begin their 2024 turkey seasons April 6. Image provided by Turkeys for Tomorrow

Adam Butler, wild turkey program coordinator for Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said that despite less-than-ideal weather conditions, Mississippi hunters are reporting good numbers as well.

“Most reports indicate typical early season patterns — sporadic roost gobbling, with most birds shutting up after they hit the ground,” he said. “A lot of gobblers are still henned up. Based on weather forecasts and historic gobbling trends, I would expect the action to really get a lot better in the next week or two.”

David Blanton said the action has been very slow where he’s been hunting in the lower part of South Carolina, 40 miles inland from the coast, on private land in Game Zone 3, which opened on March 22.

“The weather has been tough, with east winds and rain on the way,” he said. “The turkeys aren’t fired up or responsive right now. In the words of the landowner, ‘Spring has not sprang’ yet in the state,” Blanton said.

Hopefully, hunters in North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana and Tennessee, which open with youth or regular seasons at the end of this week, will boast of good numbers and active birds when the reports start rolling in.

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