Well, here we are in week three of the 2022 Spring Turkey Season and those big beautiful birds are really switching gears. It’s that time of the season when the breeding activity, travel and feeding patterns begin to shift. With those shifts in the flock activities, it becomes harder to hunt them without making some shifts as well in our approach. And, it seems like our shifts in tactics are being necessitated by geography as well.
The birds along the coast, in the Weekiwachee and Aripeka properties I’ve hunted, though they hosted a lot of turkey sign, but not a gobble was to be heard. The hens were traveling as singles, toms were hanging out with other toms, almost as if the urge to breed had simply bypassed them. My clients still had opportunities to invite turkeys to travel with them back to their own states, via a swarm of shotgun pellets to the noggin. But, each one came in silently and cautiously, more out of curiosity than willingness to intercept a breeding hen.
Farther inland around Brooksville, the breeding activity is beginning to lull. Not much excited gobbling as the hens are beginning to lay their eggs and spend more and more time in the company of other hens, feeding in groups around the perimeter of their nesting areas. The toms are flying down and cruising their territories, seeking hens in need of their attention. Lots more sightings of them strutting in open fields, roadways and powerline easements, hoping to catch the eye of a lonely hen.
Farther inland yet, the flocking and breeding is at its peak. The hens are really chasing the toms, in order to be tended as the breeding they receive today will fertilize the egg they will be laying tomorrow. The toms are very vocal on the limb, gobbling their heads off to get the hens to fly down and gather into his harem flock which he joins and refuses to abandon while listening to hunters calling desperately to lure him in. It’s tough!
But, stick with it! If you find yourself hunting silent toms, use your callers to reproduce the sounds of feeding hens. Social calls; clucks and purrs with the occasional two or three note yelp mixed in. Keep the excitement down and if you find yourself in the vicinity of hens, listen closely and mimic their vocals. For the luke-warm birds toss out some tending yelps with lots of clucks and a moderate amount of purrs and whines. Focus on calling to the toms with a bit of excitement and stick close to the roost trees. Once they’ve found a hen or two to breed, they’ll circle back in hopes of picking up any hens they may have overlooked. And the inland birds on the eastern edges of our county, well, they’re hot right now. Hunt them as you would on opening day with excited yelps, cuts and lots of clucks.
As always, if you have any comments, questions or just want to share your success from the woods, give me a shout out at [email protected]. God Bless, Good Hunting!