A different kind of “March Madness” affects many of us outdoor sportsmen that has nothing to do with a basketball playoff. Our madness is concerned with the prize we pursue every March, the spring turkey season that “officially” begins on the 15th of March.
But the season is already well underway in terms of preparation. There are many items to settle before the sun rises on March 15th for the dedicated turkey hunter. I will be in the woods the last weekend of February scouting and listening for gobbling at daylight. Later, I will take the time to pattern my new shotgun and determine which choke provides the best shot patterns with different shell configurations. And of course, away from the woods, there will be much attention paid to calling practice. Call tuning, sanding of my friction style calls, sanding & chalking my “paddle box” callers so they mimic several different sounding hens that could be used to gain the gobbler’s attention from his roost on opening morning.
In the natural order of a turkey’s breeding habits a male turkey, the gobbler, simply announces his location from his roost limb with a booming GOBBLEGOBBBLEGOBBLE! The area female turkey, called hens, are expected to yelp a response if they like what they hear and they often emit excited cackles, yelps, clucks and purrs as they fly down off the limb to make their way to the gobbler. The gobbler then flies down to his favorite “strutting zone”, often a small field, logging road or just an open area in the woods on a ridge top or even in a hardwood bottom. There he struts and drums to display his “top bird” status as the most dominant male in the area and the hens walk to him, where they will often run in to him and squat down to signal they are ready to breed.
This is where the challenge comes in for a turkey hunter. It is our game plan to mimic a hen. A hen that sounds so seductive,so sweet, so alluring, the gobbler will leave his strut zone and come over to seek out that sweet sounding hen but, he finds a hunter instead, with a waiting dose of lead! Talk about a fatal attraction!
Other gobblers who want to challenge him will gobble and also come to his location and often a fight of epic proportions will ensue. Gobblers fight by spurring as their main weapon. They kick and spur each other in the chest, with the older, sharpest spurred Toms inflicting the most damage, enough to “run off” the other gobbler.
The subordinate gobbler will sometimes leave the area or if he stays around, he will not gobble to attract hens since he is risking another “whipping” by the “boss gobbler”. The gobblers beat each other with their powerful wings, peck each other with their beaks and “neck wrestle” where they will twist their necks around each other and viciously peck, slap spur and kick until one of them gives up the fight. I have witnessed some fantastic gobbler fights through the years and used that event on more than one hunt to sneak up close enough to shoot one of the combatants. It is one of my favorite spectacles in the March Madness of the spring turkey woods.
The first weekend in March will provide me a second scouting weekend and if needed, time to pattern my new shotgun, a Bennelli “Super Vinci” 3.5 inch 12 gauge in “Mossy Oak Bottomland” camo pattern, it is an exciting new “tool” for me to enjoy.
The second weekend in March will allow those under 16 years of age to get the first shot, literally, by way of the Alabama youth turkey season. I plan to take my granddaughter hunting for her first turkey and she is already so impatient and ready to go hunting that it helps me get to a more enthusiastic point in my pre-season prep.
She and I went last year on youth weekend and one other trip later in the year but, did not find a gobbling bird to work. I hope this spring she will get to enjoy the magic of March when a love sick gobbler is interested in my hen calls and walks to my setup from a long way off gobbling dozens of times on the way in! If he comes in close enough I hope she will also get to hear the distinct “pfffft hmmmpp” sound of a drumming gobbler that many adult turkey hunters tell me they have never heard! I love that sound as much or more than the gobbling! That is a couple of sounds and some extreme excitement that no hunter can forget for the rest of their life! I hope I can get a gobbler to show off like that for her so she will be a lifelong turkey hunter like her “pop-pop”.
In related events, this Thursday night, February 28th, the Elmore County Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will hold their annual Hunting Heritage Banquet that includes a charity auction, both live and silent, raffles, door prizes, a great time of fellowship with other local turkey hunters and will be one of the best NWTF banquets iin the entire state if it follows past history! If anyone would like to attend, I have tickets for sale! This is a recognized 501c3 tax deductable charity event and you’re bound to have a good time, eat some great St.Louis style ribs or BBQ chicken If you come out to support the NWTF. Just give me a call 334-850-9526 or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to get your tickets to you!
Turkey season, March Madness that goes all the way through April 30th, will be here soon!
Get out and enjoy our great Central Alabama Outdoors!
Until next week ,