American Hunter | How to Analyze Turkey Season for the Perfect Strategy
Like white-tailed hunters who hunt before, after, and after the rut, turkey hunters must consider the ever-changing circumstances of the spring breeding season. If you fail to realize that wild turkeys are changing behavior during this spring ritual, it can cost an eater. Both chickens and eaters feel the effects of a change in hormone levels as the daylight hours increase with the arrival of spring. In combination with the associated breeding and nesting behavior, the hormones change the behavior of the turkeys on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Breeding can begin in late February or March in the southernmost latitudes, but expect most propagation in April and early May. Analyze these ongoing spring changes for your best shot at a turkey meal.
Early Spring Congregation
With the transition from winter to spring, large flocks of winter turkeys break up into smaller groups. Your hunt can begin with a few herds that are still in a larger winter dimension. This means more eyeballs, more call competition, and a less likely chance that your calls will have an impact on the actual scuffle that is going on before you. Hens may not be quite ready for breeding either, although the hormonal surge in Toms is nearing its peak. With so much going on in an assembled turkey community, a whitetail-like approach may be best.
Strategy: A good aspect of winter herds is their predictability. The schedule may not be as reliable as the rising sun, but with enough exploration you can see a repeating pattern. Watch out for turkeys feeding in the same fields, scratching in mast-heavy coulees, and basking on south-facing slopes.
Some flocks, particularly northern or western groups, often return to the same location every day, especially roosts, while eastern or southern groups may only repeat a pattern every few days. Make a note of the preferred location and be there when you expect the group to return. Calling may or may not be required, but you have to be ready with a tempter. A chicken bait, accompanied by a quarter brace Jake, attracts both the boss hen and all of the toms.
Testosterone jump starter
If you notice the herds are getting smaller and the feeding is increasing, you know that the breeding season is starting. Compare this period with the white-tailed buck before the rut, when testosterone reaches a peak in the white-tailed buck before oestrus breeding. Some chickens will inevitably be ready to breed early, but the majority will slowly begin to advance the advancement of toms in love.
Cold spells or heat waves could slow this time down, but not for long as there are now hormones in the driver’s seat.
Strategy: This preliminary round for turkeys is when a roost is noticed. To guarantee success, after finding the rest area, determine the most likely runway. Next, set your morning alarm an hour or earlier than normal. You’d like to slip into the shotgun range of the landing zone and place a realistic bait on the edge just before dawn. Now sneak back into the dark and wait for the turkeys to wake up.
The toms will likely devour the chickens on the first clue at dawn. As soon as the chickens start screaming, join in. Adjust your cadence and volume. Some chickens are okay with your presence and chat politely while Toms interrupt. A gang of girls could slide straight to you with a Tom in tow. A boss hen can stimulate the conversation. It’s okay to pick up the pace as it could annoy a hen and draw a tom right into your lap.
It starts off slowly but the nesting is picking up speed as a Toms fan for the ladies. As soon as the chickens have discreetly determined the location of their nest, they lay one egg a day. Breeding can continue during the two week period during which it accumulates about a dozen eggs. Interestingly, chickens can store sperm for efficiency, rendering extracurricular activities invalid for some irritable toms.
When chickens lay eggs, the herd’s “strength” is disrupted. The absence of a single hen may go unnoticed, but as more chickens accumulate eggs, a tom will be more lonely. Chickens do not tilt to the nest around the clock until the last egg is laid, but the flock slowly becomes fragmented. Chickens can return to the herd or simply eat alone all day and possibly return to communal roosts.
Strategy: Although it goes against the grain, a midday attack may be the answer. Since Toms are busy with the last breeding tasks in the morning, they are often home alone from the morning onwards.
Fall asleep and head into the woods just before brunch hour. Toms will have finished breeding chickens, which will soon leave to lay eggs. Troll through the woods with a series of soft, lonely yelps to ignite any untied toms wandering around unconnected. Raise the banter when he turns up the volume for a fever pitch meeting. Stay under cover and let the eater chase you until it appears within range of the shotgun.
Not today … I have a headache and a nest
Towards the end of the hunting season, most chickens ignore Toms for one mission: compulsory nesting. Once all of the eggs have been laid, a hen will begin a continuous incubation with only brief recesses from the nest. Your only other activity is repositioning the eggs about once an hour. This takes up to 28 days.
During this absence, Toms look for one last Tinder tryst. This may sound like the recipe for great success, but there are problems before a hurray ends. First, Toms have been relentlessly hunted by you and others for a month or more of the spring season. Second, the hormones that used to put them at risk for a winning trick begin to wear off as summer approaches. You lose drive and have no small blue pill dissolution.
Strategy: Patience is a virtue, and when combined with subtle shouts in familiar turkey alleyways, a tom can peek at a log for a shot. If you hire a tom but it stops like a Tesla without a charge, a move may be warranted. Carefully circle the tom to stay on its level and start a new conversation. You can use the same call, but even a change in pitch or cadence can trigger an action if you think carefully with each movement.
If Toms refuse to join the dating game, consider putting some chicken bait in a field known for past turkey shows. Hide within range of the shotgun, either in cover or in a blind, and wait for a drifter tom. A few soft screams can briefly ignite its foot-dragging nature in the late season.
By and large, the turkey seasons stretch for weeks. Stay up to date on turkey behavior changes and you will have a tactic handy if you can find a window for your spring hunting.