By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
Turkey season has been on the minds of many hunters since January 31st of this year. Some people only deer hunt to pass the time until March 15th arrives. Well boys and girls, it’s almost here. With that being said, the weather has many avid turkey hunters wondering how this season will pan out. Temperatures have been very mild and some hunters are a little skeptical about what this season may bring.
Good news! Reproduction in hens is correlated to photoperiod or length of days, not temperatures in the environment. It is not unusual for gobblers to begin strutting and gobbling in early February, it just means they will be gobbling for a lot longer than they might have last year when temperatures were more seasonal. According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the only downfall to an early spring is the fact that everything is putting on foliage. The increase in foliage adds a level of difficulty to your turkey hunting trip because the Gobs are harder to hear. Pinpointing the gob is the next task. Steve Hickoff states that once the gobbler is pinpointed, the buffer of foliage makes ambushing a turkey much easier! Furthermore, the early onset of spring will surely benefit wild turkey populations this year. Early spring temperatures and the revitalization of plants can only help the turkey population as well as the newborn poults as they begin searching for insects to eat. Aside from how the plants have responded to the early spring, hens will continue to do just as they are biologically programmed to do. They will begin breeding when the length of days is just right and not a moment before. Gobbler activity will resume halfway through breeding season when some hens are sitting on nests, while others may still be unmated. Just as in white-tailed deer, mature gobblers do most of the breeding, while the jakes are still largely unsuccessful (unless there is a skewed sex ratio). Are you seeing a pattern? Photoperiod controls all the major biological functions in deer and turkey. Everything about the antler cycle in deer is related to photoperiod (which is related to the amount of testosterone) as is the breeding in turkeys. They will only breed when they are biologically ready, regardless of the weather. This is a huge part of the turkey population question—is it declining? Well it may be, and there may be more than one culprit (so to speak), but an early spring can do nothing but benefit an already established turkey population and help the little guys out as well.
If you have had mixed feelings about this turkey season, hopefully this article will nip them in the bud! An early spring does not indicate earlier breeding seasons for turkeys or an anti-climactic hunting season; it indicates a jam packed season full of gobbling and strutting. There may be a few more obstacles given the dense foliage (in some areas), but isn’t that why we hunt? If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. So get your leafy suits and your mouth calls out, turkey season is only a week away!
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