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Strut Report: Turkeys On Schedule Throughout the South

Strut Report: Turkeys On Schedule Throughout the South

Posted 2024-04-12  by  Stephanie Mallory

Alabama is in full swing and the action is expected to pick up in other states throughout the region

The turkey action is right on schedule across the South. Editor Will Brantley, his wife, Michelle, and son, Anse, hunted in Texas’ North Zone last week, where he said the turkeys were henned up for the most part.

“There were a lot of jakes, but we run into that a lot in Texas. They mess with the longbeards and run them off. So, catching a gobbler by himself can be tough,” Brantley said.

Despite the challenges, they managed to kill their tags within the first few days of the trip.

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Anse Brantley bagged his first mature gobbler during the Kentucky youth season. Image courtesy of Will Brantley

After their Texas hunt, the family returned home so Anse could participate in Kentucky’s two-day youth season. “From what I saw, the birds’ behavior is right on schedule. The hens aren’t very receptive yet. Anse’s bird was roosted 100 yards from a hen. She yelped on the roost and the tom gobbled. We called at her hard, got her fired up, and he followed her right in. That’s when Anse shot him. The gobblers are following the hens right now. Out in fields, I’m seeing groups of two or three strutters with big groups of hens, which leads me to believe we’re still on the early side of things. The hens should be going to nest in the next week or so,” Brantley said.

He said the weather has warmed up some since the recent cold spell, which has affected the ground cover.

“It was warm and pretty in early March, but then it got cold and wet, which slowed the foliage down, causing the woods to remain fairly open. The woods are definitely greener than they were a few days ago. I think we’ll have a week or so of tough hunting here in Kentucky and then we’ll come out of it. The last week of April and the first few days of May is my favorite time to hunt in my home state,” Brantley said.

Alabama’s turkey season is in its full swing now, with flocks dispersed, some hens beginning to nest and the weather cooperating as much as it ever does during spring in the Deep South.

Wildlife photographer Tes Jolly, who has a farm in east central Alabama, says the hens are definitely feeling broody.

“Singles and doubles are all I’m seeing and they’re dispersing throughout the farm, likely to their nesting areas. It appears the laying period is in full swing. Some of the hens may be incubating as well since hen sightings are dropping off. A gobbler here was tagging behind two hens through a food plot early off the roost this morning, but they ended up going one way and he went another. The gobbling on the roost and shortly after fly-down has been good — late morning too. This looks like the time when late-morning hunts can be exciting. I’m going to be hunting this weekend and will hopefully find out,” Tes said.

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Her husband Ron, who’s chairman of the board for Turkeys for Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving wild turkeys through sustainable, scientific solutions, said, “Flock dispersal is almost complete. We are seeing single hens and roaming gobblers, either alone or with a single lieutenant. Gobbling varies from good in cool, clear mornings to poor at all other times. It’s like all male turkeys are in a state of confusion wondering where everyone went.”

Ron said on Monday, he saw a group of three jakes that were roaming around like lost teenage boys. He finally saw a single strutter with five hens late in the morning in a clover field.

“Turkeys on our east central Alabama farm are on schedule. I suspect egg-laying is in full swing and hens will begin incubation in the next week or so. Gobblers are adjusting to the lack of available hens and will become more vulnerable to calling soon,” he said.

Reid Duvall, TFT’s chief financial officer and an avid hunter in Shelby County, Alabama, helped guide his brother-in-law to two opportunities this past weekend, though they weren’t able to capitalize on either.

On Saturday, the birds they found were very vocal early in the morning. Duvall was able to call one in off the roost, but his hunter couldn’t line up a shot.

On Sunday, the two located vocal birds just off the roost and a big-gobbling jake ran into their laps. Once the morning rush subsided, they followed the tops of ridgelines as they moved deeper into the woods, where, ultimately, they located a mature bird. Duvall called the gobbler up the ridge as they had hoped and planned, but things went awry from there.

“Being only the third or fourth time he had been in the spring woods, my brother-in-law didn’t realize the slightest movement can halt a bird in his tracks,” Duvall said. “When the gobbler appeared, he clicked the safety off on his gun and the gobbler, which was already suspicious, ducked his head below the curve of the ridge and wasn’t seen again that day.”

Realtree’s Tyler Jordan has been hunting in Georgia with his buddies where they’ve experienced success in the last four to five days with more gobbling than they’ve encountered during previous hunts this season.

“We shot two turkeys in Georgia and they cooperated great. The last day and a half was tough, though, with bad weather moving in across the state. I’m hoping when it clears up by the weekend, it will be better. I plan on hunting in Georgia for the next week,” he said.

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Hunt Club and Spring Thunder Host Phillip Culpepper, who hunted with Tyler last week, said the turkeys worked great in to their calls and there was not a hen to be found on those two particular setups.

“We killed one at 11 a.m., and the other the next morning about an hour after daylight,” Culpepper said.

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Phillip Culpepper shows off one of two Georgia birds taken during his hunt with Tyler Jordan. Image by Phillip Culpepper

Elsewhere in the South, seasons have opened in Louisiana and Tennessee (a youth season). Coates Head, a TFT board member from northeastern Louisiana, reports hearing good gobbling activity on Saturday and Monday, sandwiched around a silent Sunday.

Roger Shields, wild turkey program coordinator for Tennessee’s Division of Wildlife and Forestry, said, “Based on the few comments I’ve received from folks around the state, it seems the birds are in full swing here. Gobblers have been seen strutting and with hens. Our turkey season kicks off in earnest this weekend. It looks to be a decent opening day and I suspect it will be a fast start, somewhat like last year judging from the youth weekend (which was this past Saturday and Sunday, April 6-7)."

Harvests reported through the end of Tennessee’s youth weekend totaled 2,128, up from the five-year average of 1,419.2.

Scott Vance, a TFT member who lives south of Nashville, has a different perspective on Tennessee birds, saying the birds he encountered were still henned up.

“Turkey numbers are down in Tennessee overall and it seems like most of the adult gobblers have hens right now,” Vance said.

Turkey season is up and running now throughout most of the southern states, and the coming week looks to be promising overall with the potential for fired-up gobblers and milder weather.

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