The gobblers are getting very active and some hens are starting to nest as the first peak of the spring breeding season is going well in most of Alabama. Hunters that I communicate with via email and face book are showing up smiling and posing with some very nice long beards and some awesome “hooks” (spurs).
I have been hearing a good many birds when I get a chance to get in the woods so long as it is not raining. I am also starting to see a larger number of single hens along side roads and fields during the mid morning which can indicate they are moving into the laying and nesting portion of the spring breeding season. From now through June be very careful about riding through the fields where there is Sage, Johnson, or other tall grass and certainly if you are bush-hogging watch out for hens nesting! Every year, a number of turkey nests are needlessly destroyed by folks bush-hogging tall warm season grasses that hens like to nest in or by riders of four wheelers or trucks who are just out “wood riding”. I enjoy riding my four wheeler but, I watch for nests and try to stay out of areas where a hen could have her clutch of eggs hidden.
The hen will generally lay an egg a day, after she is bred, and when she gets 12, she will start to sit on them and trigger the gestation period which is almost always 28 days. The poults will all usually start to pip out from inside the egg and they most often hatch within a few hours of each other. The hen has various calls, mostly purrs and soft clucks of encouragement to get the poults to work their way out of the shell and after they dry off, usually only about 30 minutes from out of the shell to dry, stand up and find “momma” who will get them all away from the nest since the smell of turkey eggs will bring predators around in just a little while.
Since the number of hens that are receptive to the advances of the gobblers will start to decrease rapidly between now and the end of the season on April 30th, the gobblers will become more vocal and get a little bit less picky about the hen that is calling to them to “come on over”. This shifts the advantage just a little bit more toward the hunter if patience is practiced and some realistic hen calling is done “just right” to sound irresistable to that gobbler who is near the top of the pecking order and is intent on passing along his genes to the next generation of wild turkeys.
This past Friday and Saturday, I had the joy of having my granddaughter, Anna Faye to hunt with me and we had a totally marvelous time in the turkey woods! Friday morning we heard three gobblers but found that two of them were on an adjoining property across a creek and high fence so we made our way to the third gobbler only to find that another club member was also in pursuit of him so we backed off and tried to find another one but came out empty handed.
On Saturday morning our luck changed as we got on a hot gobbling bird right at daybreak and were able to slip in and set up within a hundred yards of his roosting location. No sooner than he flew down in the small green field we had hoped to reach, he was attacked by a gang of racous jakes that numbered 6 or 7 and they put on quite a show of wing beating, spurring, kicking, pecking and feather pulling! fighting purrs and loud putts rang out as the gobbler, still intent on answering my calls made his way up the hill toward our location. A hen ran in to our left and I decided to move my arms enough to “shoo” her away since she was looking at us and sounded some alarm putts.
The gobbler and his jake adversaries were so busy fighting they paid her no heed and they literally “roiled up” in front of us as we watched in amazement! Suddenly, the big gobbler ran directly toward us around the palmetto fronds we were hiding behind as he attempted to allude the jake attackers and he wound up about 3 feet from the end of Anna Faye’s gun barrel! I was hissing “shoot him!”, “shoot him!” and she snapped out of her mesmirized state and fired! Her 20 gauge rolled him over and he stumbled backwards back out in the little logging road and I told her to run and put her foot on his head and don’t let him up! Sitting there, watching her with her boot on his head and his wings beating her and the ground furiously I was so proud of the moment that I let out a shout! She was still in shock about the whole happening that she asked me “did I do good Pop-Pop-?!?
I replied that you are awesome! and we hugged and checked out her prize gobbler! He had a 10.5 inch beard, 1 and a quarter inch sharp hook spurs and he weighed 17.2 lbs! I guessed him to be a 4 year old due to his long spurs and large frame that he was noticeably “skinny”. That told me he had been so intent on chasing hens that feeding had been halted for some time.
It was a TOTALLY Great hunt and one that will be a great shared memory for us the rest of our lives! Best turkey hunt EVER! and that is comparing it to several hundred good gobblers I have taken or called in for others over the last 54 years of turkey hunting!
Take your kids hunting! it makes for some great days in the woods and life long memories!