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4/19/17- Tips for Harvesting a Silent Bird

By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

Turkey season is slowly but surely wrapping up once again. I don’t know how the season has treated you, but this year has been very tricky for me. Along with the unusually warm weather, the gobblers this year are mute in and around Clarke County, Alabama. As we all know, the best sound to hear at sunrise is a gobble that will blow your hat off your head, but what if you don’t hear anything at all? An article in the March/April issue of the NWTF magazine gives some tips for hunting silent gobblers and I thought I would pass them along.

The notorious “gobbling” is the sound of springtime for many hunters. However, when that sound is non-existent, turkey hunting reaches a whole new difficulty level and many people experience feelings of frustration and anger. Brian Lovett tells us there is no need to feel that way anymore. Gobbling and clucking are not the only noises that we need to be listening to in the turkey woods. For example, drumming is an excellent noise to hear. Drumming is the action of air entering a turkey’s body and then he uses that air to “puff up” and appear large and in charge. If the turkey is on the ground, he will strut around and do little pirouettes on the ground while dragging his wing tips around him. It looks like some sort of ritual. However, they will also do it on the limb before pitching down. Some hunters believe that turkeys only drum and strut for hens but that is not always the case. Lovett explains that a hen does not have to be present for a gobbler to begin drumming but you best be getting ready because chances are he is very close!

Secondly, footsteps along the forest floor are another sure sign of turkey movement. Their feet may appear small, but they create a remarkable amount of noise. A scratching noise is most popular as turkeys scratch at pine straw or dirt looking for food. If you have ever been accompanied by an experienced hunter, you may have noticed that while they were calling, they were also scratching at the ground below them. This helps trick the turkey into thinking there is a hen close by and she might be on a pile of food! It is also helpful to make scratching noises while sneezing or coughing (it happens to the best of us).

What do you do if you hear no verbal sounds at all?  Well, that is when the virtue of patience comes in handy and you must rely on other sounds like those listed above. Lovett explains that many turkeys go silent when they are on the move or they are tired of being harassed by younger birds. This is the perfect time to listen for footsteps or fly-down noises or drumming. I personally believe turkeys are also not gobbling if there is a large predator threat on the property. Lovett goes on to say that silence is not always a bad thing; it just means you have to be on your A game. Silent birds have busted many people and if you’ve never been busted, you haven’t hunted enough! Lovett says to remain “vigilant” because that turkey could show up at any moment.

I feel that this article will be helpful for many hunters as they try to end this season with a bang (literally)! Do not feel discouraged if you don’t hear a gobble or a yelp, simply get your mind right and listen for other noises. Just because he doesn’t want to gobble doesn’t mean he can’t be killed. Sometimes the simplest sounds can be the ones that are the most telling. Silent birds can be harvested; it just takes a lot of patience and concentration.

By: Meaghan English

My name is Meaghan English, a wildlife specialist with TrueSouth. I graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management and I have grown up with a passion for hunting. I knew from an early age that I was not only interested in the harvesting of wildlife, but I was also very interested in their biology and management. I decided that I not only wanted to be a wildlife enthusiast, I want to be an educated wildlife specialist. I will be using that grand education as a member of the TrueSouth team contributing wildlife blog articles!

My first hunting memory flashes back to when I was six or seven years old. Like any other Saturday during deer season, my dad had told my mom to get me ready because we were going hunting. Of course I was ecstatic! I was not ecstatic about the hair bow my mom made me wear with my camouflage (she wanted everyone to know I was in fact a fashionable girl). The entire way to Perdue Hill, Alabama, my dad told me that today would be the first day I would actually shoot my first deer and I knew I was ready. We pulled up to the camp, unloaded, and fed all the “camp cats”. Before we headed to our stand, I had spotted three kittens that I simply could not leave behind so I stuffed them in my jacket. After walking what seemed like five miles, we finally made it to the “Pressbox stand” (with my smuggled kittens) and sat down. Dad continuously pestered me to be quiet, but I wasn’t that worried about shooting a deer, I had kittens! Eventually, the sun began to sink behind the trees and a spike (without olfactory senses) entered the field. When it was safe to quietly move, dad handed me the gun and I handed him my three kittens. I slowly pulled the gun up and placed my cheek against the stock. Dad told me to breathe slowly and pull the trigger when I was ready. Sure enough, I pulled the trigger and the spike hit the ground. We high-fived, exchanged kittens again, and climbed down to see the kill. It certainly was not a wall hanger, but a huge chapter in my life was started that night. My dad and I still hunt together to this day and we practice quality deer management at all times.

My ultimate goal is to provide clients with a survey of flora and fauna that currently inhabit a specific tract of land and, if desired, how to properly manage that land for the species that are found there. All feedback is greatly appreciated and I look forward to working with you!

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