Drawn by gobble as spring turkey
July 21st, 2015 by Red Hills
published in the Tallahassee Democrat, 3/28/15. Photo courtesy of Brian Proctor
The majority of turkey hunters I know are passionate about their springtime pursuits; some may even be viewed as obsessed. But why? What is it about trying to coax a 20 pound male turkey gobbler within gun range using romantic overtures that keeps people coming back again and again?
For many, it’s all about the gobble. At its core, turkey hunting is about communication and interaction with America’s largest game bird. The gobble is the link between turkey and hunter. Many consider it a funny little sound, but those who have had their core shaken by a gobbler ripping out a loud gobble nearby know the thrill and power associated with that crazy noise.
The turkey hunter’s goal is to sound like a lonely hen ready for a springtime rendezvous. The male gobbler uses his gobble to seductively attract a harem of hens while also trying to sound tough enough to keep competing gobblers away. The hens are also vocalizing throughout this springtime breeding ritual, communicating their availability and interest to the surrounding gobblers. The turkey hunter becomes intertwined in a torrid mix of passion, relationships, competition and breakup, and from that drama he hopes to outwit a gobbler blinded by lust.
Most would agree every turkey hunt is a little different, rarely predictable, and a perfectly good excuse to take time to absorb the woodland surroundings.
From the start of turkey hunting season in mid-March until its end in late April, the woods go through an amazing transformation. Most turkey hunters can tell you the status of the dogwood bloom, the first morning when northern parula warblers have arrived from their south-of-the-border wintering grounds, and when the sweet gum leaves have completely emerged from their buds. The hunter is surrounded by the advancement of spring, which adds to the satisfaction of turkey hunting.
Turkey gobbling activity also goes through seasonal progression as the springtime breeding season commences. Often, there are two peaks of activity. The first is in early spring when the breeding is just getting started. The second peak is later in the season when most of the hens have begun nesting and are no longer interested in gobblers. The timing of these peaks can vary yearly and in intensity for a variety of reasons. When gobbling rates are high, turkey hunting is at its best.
Shane Wellendorf is the Conservation Coordinator at Tall Timbers Research Station & Land Conservancy
Spring Turkey Hunting in Red Hills Region
Florida’s season is March 21 – April 26
Georgia’s season is March 21–May 15