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Strut Report: Strong Start to Deep South Turkey Season

Strut Report: Strong Start to Deep South Turkey Season

Posted 2024-03-18  by  Stephanie Mallory

Florida Osceolas are tight-lipped but responsive, while Mississippi hunters expect a great season

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David Blanton never heard a gobble, but managed to tag out on the first afternoon of his hunt. Image provided by David Blanton

Florida and Mississippi are off and running for the 2024 turkey season, and it’s looking good for both states.

Although turkey populations have declined in many parts of the United States, the decline is less dramatic in Florida, where the season opened March 2 in the South Zone and March 16 in the North Zone.

Hunt Club and Spring Thunder Host Phillip Culpepper said he and his fellow hunters had an incredible opening week hunting with Southern Strutters Outfitters in the South Zone.

“In five days of hunting, we killed seven birds — four on opening day with all four coming in to different setups throughout the day. The turkeys were working great! Later in the hunt, the toms definitely started to get henned up a bit. Fortunately, we managed to call in one tom’s hens to us and we killed him around noon that day,” Culpepper said.

Don’t Miss: 2024 Southeast Turkey Hunting Forecast

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Jake Boswell, Phillip Culpepper and Michael Reinbott show off one of seven gobblers the group took during their Osceola hunt with Southern Strutters Outfitters. Image provided by Phillip Culpepper

Realtree’s David Blanton hunted in Immokalee, Florida, with Southern Outdoor Outfitters, the following week, where he experienced first-day success.

“We arrived in camp on Monday, March 4, and my guide Paul Byrd had us lined up to hunt a piece of property the following morning. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to hunt it that morning because the land owner wanted to meet us first, but he had a doctor’s appointment. We were finally able to meet him and get out onto the property around 2 p.m. and immediately saw a couple of strutters and hens out in the field. The property had a lot of turkeys.”

Blanton says those who’d had a chance to hunt opening week told him that in certain pockets, the turkeys weren’t gobbling much, especially after they hit the ground.

“We didn’t hear any gobbling either, but we weren’t out there at daylight when they’d normally gobble. At around 3 p.m., we set up in an oak hammock where we’d seen a group of jakes and hens. We set out a jake and a few hen decoys and were content to just sit there until dark and do some light calling every 20 to 30 minutes. We never heard a gobble, but all of the sudden, we spotted three gobblers coming in to the jake decoy from the right. One of the gobblers jumped on the jake, and we shot him, and that was the end of the hunt. It was short, but sweet.”

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Phillip Culpepper says the gobblers came in to a variety of setups throughout the hunt. Image provided by Phillip Culpepper

Mark Clemons, owner of Everglades Adventures, says the birds in his area are currently falling into the week-long lull that they experience every season.

“The birds are splitting up from their normal fall flocks into smaller groups of four to six hens, 10 to 15 jakes and two to four adult gobblers. The hens are very receptive to the gobblers, which creates this lull in calling from both hens and gobblers. This affects our hunters’ interactions with the birds, but not their ability to harvest them. Our hunter success currently with 12 days into season is 16 clients and 19 Osceolas.”

Those who want to keep up with Florida’s harvest numbers this season can check out The Hunter’s Toolbox, which is updated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It features harvest reports by map, land type, and by day.

Mississippi’s regular season opened March 15, and according to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks (MDFWP) 2024 Turkey Season Forecast, hunters across the state should experience one of the best seasons in years due to a succession of solid hatches.

Adam Butler, MDWFP Wild Turkey Program coordinator, said, “We’re probably about on track with what the turkeys are normally doing this time of year. They’re gobbling on the roost but not a lot on the ground, but we’re still seeing big flocks of turkeys – gobblers with a lot of hens.”

He said opening weekend was cursed with bad weather, but hopefully improving weather conditions will bring about good results in the turkey woods during the following days.

Don’t miss: 2024 Midwest Region 2024 Season Forecast

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Jonah and Mercer Singletary (center) show off their nice Osceolas with Roger and Phillip Culpepper. Image provided by Phillip Culpepper

Alabama is next in the lineup with a March 25 start date. Wildlife photographer Tes Jolly, who has a farm in Tuskegee, Alabama, says she likes what she’s seeing as well.

“There’s lots of action right now. Flocks are intermingling and pecking orders are being settled,” Jolly said.

Realtree funny man Michael Pitts hasn’t hit the woods yet, but says he’ll leave for Texas on March 17, to hunt the South Zone, which opened March 16, and from that point on, he’ll be hunting a lot. He’s been keeping an eye on the birds in his home state of Georgia, which opens March 30 on private lands and April 6 on public lands, and says they’ve been strutting and putting on a good show for several weeks now.

“I will go out and start listening for early morning gobbles towards the end of this week,” Pitts said.

Hunters will have to wait until April to hunt the remaining southern states including Arkansas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

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