In two days I’d heard only one gobble. It wasn’t even an explosion-of-passion sort of gobble. It was a single, mumbling kind of gobble made obligatorily at sunrise. Then nothing. “They’re henned up,” everyone was saying with this the-season-is-a-bust kind of melancholy. Spring had come early and the turkeys started breeding with it and now the most intense gobbling period was over, over, over.
I looked at the calendar. Two weeks earlier, the gobblers were screaming their fool heads off all day—a week before the season had started. I did the math and considered the weather and knew hens were already laying eggs. They typically lay one egg per day. They lay an average of a dozen eggs. They don’t start incubating their eggs until they’ve laid them all, so all the eggs will hatch at about the same time. When they start incubating their eggs they’ll leave their gobbler cold. When this happens the next peak of gobbling will occur. All I had to do was wait. Most of the hunters would give up and the woods would be loud again.
Timing these gobbling peaks isn’t as easy as predicting the peak of the whitetail rut, but, by watching the factors explained here, it is possible and it can help you get your gobbler this season.
The First Gobbling Peak
Tactics: Engage the hens and be aggressive. Repeat whatever the most vocal hen says. She might get so worked up she’ll come in with her gobbler in tow. Hunt hard, but smart. Don’t overcall and educate toms. You typically need to catch them alone to call them in—for that you might have to wait. If you scatter a tom’s harem, move quietly toward where the gobbler flew and wait 30 minutes or so. Call like a hen and you might bring in the gobbler.
The Second Gobbling Peak
Tactics: Call in late morning. Start with a locator call then try a loud call—cutting and yelping. Don’t enter an area you think has a tom unless you get more than one response.
The Pressure Factor
“We observed two peaks in gobbling activity during the spring,” said Lehman. “The first followed the winter break-up of flocks, which usually happens just before turkey season opens, and the other just before or during peak incubation, which is during the regular turkey season.” When they tallied the average number of gobbles per bird, they found that before the hunting season opened there weren’t any differences between the non-hunted and hunted populations. “However,” he said, “when the turkey hunting season was in session, the non-hunted birds gobbled significantly more times than the birds in the area that allowed hunting.” Even more interesting: After the season closed, the average number of gobbles for the non-hunted birds and hunted birds returned to similar numbers.
Tactics: In mid-to-late season, after most hunters give up, gobblers will often calm down and begin answering calls again. Call softer and use call types or tones most hunters in your area don’t use.
As the season progresses, take note of where gobblers roost, feed and strut. Use this information to take a stand.