Early 2016 Spring Brings Good Gobbling To Georgia Woods

Even wet weather couldn’t dampen the early season turkey hunting.

GON Staff | April 12, 2016

Burke County produced a bird on Saturday of the youth weekend for 15-year-old Olivia Tremble.

Regardless of the weather, turkeys will do their springtime rituals, and you can bet turkey hunters will be hunting them hard.

As usual, GON has received lots of pictures, and in this month’s coverage we focused on showing off the kids. Look for more turkey pics in upcoming issues of GON.

Here are the opening-weekend reports from GON’s team of Hunt Advisors:

Bryan County: Jonathan Hyre, of Richmond Hill reports, “The regular season opener was very good at our lease. The birds were coming to the call, but they were silent. My wife Tonya Hyre got her first turkey on Saturday morning, and I got a nice bird Sunday morning. Both birds sported 11-inch beards and about 1-inch spurs.

“Don’t be discouraged on days when they are not gobbling. If you know the birds are there, call very little—about every 30 minutes or so—and keep your eyes open. They will show up silently looking for a hen. Use a push/pull call to close the deal if one is just out of range. Just a few light clucks is all it takes to get them to come a little closer.”

Camden County: Spud Woodward, Director of DNR’s Coastal Resources Division, was in the woods for the Special Opportunity Hunt. “I had the privilege of guiding a young man to his first turkey this weekend,” Spud said. “Maddox Stroud, of St. Simons Island, has been hunting with me for the past couple of years and has passed up jakes waiting for a mature bird. We had some close calls last year but couldn’t close the deal. That finally happened on Saturday morning at 7:45 a.m. in Camden County.”

Maddox Stroud, 12, of St. Simons Island, with a big Camden County gobbler taken on Saturday morning of the youth weekend. Maddox’s gobbler had 1 3/8- and 1 1/4-inch hooks, a 10 1/2-inch beard, and it weighed 20 pounds.

“We heard no gobbling on the roost. The drizzling rain didn’t make for great conditions. About 7:20 a.m., a bird starting clucking behind us. I responded to the clucking with some soft yelps. Across the food plot from us, about 100 yards, a bird gobbled. I waited about five minutes and hit him with some more soft yelping. He cut me off, and I heard another bird behind him. Within five minutes, a strutting bird emerged from the creek bottom into the food plot. He saw the strutter-and-hens decoy setup and immediately started moving in our direction, stopping periodically to strut. About that time, another mature gobbler came into our field of view from the opposite side of the food plot passing by us at a distance of maybe 5 yards on his way to the decoy setup. A couple of minutes later, we had two mature bird demonstrating their discontent with the interloper about 20 steps in front of the ground blind. A load of Hevi-Shot No. 5s from a Beretta 20 gauge ended the party for one of the birds.”

It took two hours, but this huge Schley County gobbler finally worked its way close enough for a 16-yard shot. Brody Smith, 8, of Ellaville, made his first gobbler a big one. The longbeard had 1 1/2-inch and 1 3/8-inch spurs. Brody and his dad Jake were hunting the Sunday of youth weekend when Brody got his gobbler.

Cherokee County: Tim Danger, of Ball Ground, reports, “Turkeys have been gobbling strong on the roost for the past two weeks. Opening morning, at a little before 7 a.m. they were sounding off like crazy. My 11-year-old twin grandsons, their dad, and myself decided to try our luck at calling one in for the kill. We had an obstacle to overcome. The birds were roosted across the creek from us. As we got our decoys out and settled into our natural blind, the birds all at once just shut up. This would have been about 7:30 a.m. We decided to be real aggressive with our calling to try and get one to fly off roost over to our side of the creek. Well, the birds had other plans. We heard some other hunters come in across the creek, and they may have gotten too close to the birds. About 20 minutes later we heard them going up the valley away from us. I don’t know if I have ever heard that much roost gobbling in my turkey hunting life.

“On Sunday morning, there was not as much gobbling, and birds were a lot farther away. As far as gobbling, once they fly down, it gets better on up in the morning, say around 10 a.m. Dogwoods are still not bloomed out here in north Cherokee, which tells me the best hunting is still to come.”

Crawford County: Randy Kee, of Locust Grove, reports, “Turkey season began this year like no other that I can remember. Just as spring arrived early this year, so did some red hot hunting. The week of youth season provided some great hunting, and by the time the regular season started, the gobblers were wide open.

“I didn’t get to hunt youth week, but on the youth opener, Chloe Watkins was at the property hunting with her father Jimmy and had an exciting hunt. After a silent early morning, a gobbler finally got fired up at about 10 a.m. Just as it seemed that he was responding to the calls and closing the distance, a group of hens showed up and ruined the party. Chloe returned to her blind with her dad after getting some lunch. At about 5:30, they finally had a gobbler coming in. When the bird showed up on the powerline, there were two longbeards. Chloe made the most of it and killed both birds.

“On opening morning, I had no less than seven gobblers sounding off from the roost. They were gobbling at everything! A pair of longbeards that I had roosted on Friday gobbled at least 50 times while on the limb. Luckily for me, they flew down right into the food plot with my decoys.

“My hunt was over in less time than it took to set out the decoys. After I shot this first bird, the second one flew in and jumped right on the first. I shot him, too, and had my first ever double. Within minutes, several more birds were gobbling, and I thought for a moment I might actually tag out on opening morning. One of my hunting buddies, Clint Holcomb, also took two birds on opening day. Both birds came straight to the calls. That was the story that nearly everyone in camp had on opening weekend. Birds are gobbling heavily from the roost, and continued to well into the morning. Around 10 a.m, it started to die off a little, and by 11 I didn’t hear any more gobbling. The birds are responding great to the calls right now—better than I’ve ever witnessed.”

Early County: Sam Klement, a member of Realtree’s Pro Hunting team and founder of Huntin’ Is Good, reports, “I hunt in Blakely on leased property around the Chattahoochee River. I started off taking my 15-year-old son Cannon for the youth opener. The weather had just turned cool and windy. We ended up hearing only one bird gobble three times off the limb and couldn’t do anything with him. We spent most of the rest of the day walking and glassing fields and food plots and doing some blind calling. We managed to call up a group of jakes in one setup and a batch of hens on another. No strutting birds were seen, and there was very little strut sign on this property.

“By the time you read this, we will have also hosted our 15th anniversary of Country Goes Huntin’ that Rhett Akins and I started years ago. We will be hosting approximately 12 CMA artists and 12 Pro Hunters for our three-day event in Blakely. I will provide more details on this event and our successes and failures in next month’s issue.

“My tip to everyone is hunt anytime you can, and remember you are on turkey time—the longer you can hunt, the better your odds are of scoring on a bird. It seems like our Georgia birds are a bit behind schedule in their breeding cycle. Hoping things heat up in the next couple of weeks.”

Chloe Watkins with her first two longbeards. Her dad Jimmy called in the birds opening day of youth season. They were hunting in Crawford County, where the gobbling has been on fire, according to Hunt Advisor Randy Kee.

Floyd County: Hunter Galloway, of Dallas, reports, “With the warm weather moved in, I figured the youth weekend turkey hunt was going to be really great. Prior to opening day, I had not sat in the morning to see if they were gobbling. The day before the youth season opened, I set up my blind and checked trail cameras. I noticed there was one mature gobbler on camera that was by himself and was not strutting in any pictures. Dead giveaway they were not henned up yet. I even saw five hens in the field I was going to hunt in by themselves while setting up my blind and checking cameras. Opening day arrived, and it was very overcast. I hooted and got two to shock gobble. I started a little light calling and none gobbled back. Right at daylight, three jakes flew down into the field and started strutting. I called to them, and they came straight in to my decoys. Killed two with one shot. Out of this whole hunt, I heard 12 gobbles from daylight until I shot. They were not very vocal. At that point in time, they were not henned up yet but were soon starting to search.”

Brantt Carrington, 10, of Tifton, was hunting in Berrien County with his cousin Casey Domingue during the youth weekend when Brantt got his first gobbler.

Fannin County: Hunter Galloway, of Dallas, reports, “With a cool snap hitting the north Georgia mountains for opening weekend of the regular turkey season, it appeared that the earlier warm weather was going to keep the birds gobbling despite the cold morning. Since I had filled two of my tags on the youth weekend, I wanted to give my brother-in-law Justin Gardner a chance at getting his first turkey. We ended up roosting a few birds the evening before opening day. We went back to the same place the following morning. It was a crisp 38 degrees for opening day. Once it was daylight enough to see, I hooted and got one to shock gobble. I got set up closer to him, and he gobbled five more times before flying down. Once 8 a.m. hit, the woods lit up. Hens were yelping, and birds was gobbling from every single direction. Heard a few jake gobbles that were very close. Two jakes ended up coming in to the decoys, and Justin killed one of them for his first bird. An hour later at 9:45 while walking out, there was one gobbling its head off. We got set up and started calling. Two mature birds came rushing in to the decoy, and Justin killed one. It had a 9-inch beard, 1 1/4-inch spurs and weighed 17 pounds. I lost count on the amount of gobbles we heard that morning. No birds seemed to be henned up yet, but they were searching hard.”

The opening day of youth weekend, March 19, was good for Carter Black, 6, of Perry. Carter got his first longbeard while hunting in Houston County.

Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “All of us longtime turkey hunters know how turkey populations, and especially mature gobbler populations,  can fluctuate from year to year in a county, and even on an individual property. And that definitely appears to be playing out on the primary Harris County 790-acre piece of dirt my sons and I hunt for Accept the Challenge TV. Last season was a year we’ll always remember with big smiles because I was lucky enough to limit out in the first week and a half of the season, and one of sons, Joe, killed two additional mature birds while home from pharmacy school break for just two weekends. As good as that was, we were concerned even then that we were seeing no jakes at all on our hunting lease, and very few hens.

“Fast forward to this season where extensive preseason scouting turned up very little physical turkey sign and no sightings or sounds of any gobblers of any age class. Opening day was more of the same—nothing resembling a turkey anywhere on the 790 acres. But, on the positive side, where else can you get five better, quality hours with your college-age son than holed-up in a turkey blind, right? And, it is a long season, very long in Georgia, so there is plenty of time left for the turkeys to figure out where they’re supposed to be—and where we need them to be—which is in front of our CVA gun barrels! Oh, and did I mention that our timber company is about to start logging the hardwoods on our lease? The news just gets better and better from my neck of the turkey woods. But, I have heard of others in Harris County who had much better luck on opening weekend, and on the youth weekend. So, like I said initially, a lot depends on the individual property you’re hunting. So get out there and hunt; we will be. No matter how good or bad the hunting itself is, it’s still better than just about anything else us obsessed turkey hunters could be doing—including sleeping in!”

Kasie McCorkle, 12, of Cumming, shot her first turkey on March 20 while hunting in Spalding County. The gobbler weighed 21 pounds and had an 11 1/2-inch beard.

Long County: Roy Griggs, of Ludowici, reports, “Gunner Hawkins, 8, took to the field with his dad Donnie Hawkins at Big Bog Hunting Club in Long County for the youth opener. Donnie reports that the birds were not vocal on the roost as this area was heavy in cloud cover and occasional rain leading right up to daylight. A small opening in the weather lasted for about two hours at mid-morning, and several groups of birds came into a food plot that Gunner was setup on. After passing on some young jakes, a group of mature gobblers came in and started their show for Gunner. Donnie reports that the timing couldn’t have been better as Gunner was getting pretty anxious and the ability to sit still was wearing down. Gunner harvested his first gobbler sporting a 10-inch beard, 1 1/8-inch spurs and weighing 18 1/2 pounds.

“Several other members reported hearing birds during this small weather opening, but the birds shut back down and were simply not vocal  with the rain showers and cloud cover. Most birds seen were around fresh planted fields, food plots, and grassy areas feeding on the warm weathers production of grasses and bugs.

“The spring opener on the weekend of the 26th saw exactly the same pattern except there was significantly more rain falling. Weather openings did not provide any opportunities, and while some birds were spotted, the vocal responses and strutting were not there for the members to enjoy.”

Lumpkin County: Tim Danger, of Ball Ground, reports, “I plan on getting up in the mountains on Chattahoochee National Forest property next week to see if some of the birds I saw back during deer season are still there. The good thing about the mountains is you have a better chance at getting on a bird before they get the ladies all together due to colder temperatures. I think they are a good two weeks behind where we hunt in Cherokee. I hope to have more mountain info next month.”

Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “I did not get into the woods to do any scouting until the weekend before the season opened, but I did hear a couple of gobblers that weekend and a few hens. Our flock is still down from what I would like, and we have a big hog problem, and that’s not helping. Opening day started out wet and foggy, with no gobbling on the roost, and I only heard a couple of hens at fly down. At about 9:30, my hunting buddy and I finally got on a gobbling bird by himself, and he was willing to play. After about an hour, he committed and came in, but with a mishap he escaped to live another day. With what I witnessed on opening day and from what I’m hearing from friends, the birds are ahead of schedule, and the best hunting may be early for a change. I guess all the warm weather in late February and through March has everything early, including the blooming. Never seen it this far along this early. If the weather holds, things should be wide open by early to mid April, and if you get on a gobbler, he may just be a little bit lonely.”

The Malone brothers both got big gobblers on the Saturday of the youth weekend. Brooks Malone, 8, got a gobbler with a 10 3/4-inch beard, and Brody Malone, 6, got one with a 9 7/8-inch beard. The boys were hunting in Jasper County with their dad Blake Malone.

Muscogee County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “Since I hunted in Harris County on opening day of turkey season, and then didn’t hunt Easter Sunday, I can’t provide a true hunt report for Muscogee County until next month. However, I do want to provide a hunt forecast for this county based on several preseason scouting trips to the primary property hunted by myself and fellow Accept the Challenge TV Pro Staffer Bud Passmore.

“Last season, the property we hunt in Muscogee County was ruled predominantly by a large number of jakes, with just enough older, mature gobblers thrown into the mix to keep us interested. This season, those jakes have all grown up into those vocal, sometimes cooperative 2-year-old gobblers that we all know and love to hunt I don’t think either of us have been to this property a single time since deer season ended that we haven’t seen one or more of these mature gobblers in a field that we hunt on. Of course, I’m sure that will change as soon as we start hunting them, but some of these gobbler flocks we’re seeing contain a half-dozen or more mature birds, so we’re very optimistic at this point. This is a situation, once again, where the age structure of a turkey flock can, and likely will, vary and change from one season to the next. This season, at least on this property in Muscogee County, looks like it should be a good one—but time alone will tell

“As far as tactics for hunting these birds, when we’ve seen them they’re obviously still working out their pecking order—quite literally—so we’ll start the season off using at least one, and possibly two, strutting jake decoys, as well as multiple hen decoys. Yes, we’ll use a small turkey flock, which will look very much like the birds we’re trying to call in. As the season progresses, we’ll tone this down slowly but surely and back off on the number of decoys we use, but for starters, we’ll go aggressive. And, from past experience, the mature gobblers, when they come into our calling, will bypass the hen decoys and go straight for the fake jakes  and attack them. So, if you’re filming, have your camera and your weapon pointed in that direction, and be ready. When it happens, it could happen fast!”

Shyla Lewis, of Brantley County, scored on the youth opener in Nahunta when she harvested her first gobbler during her first turkey hunt ever. Shyla was hunting with her proud dad John Lewis.

Thomas County: Adam Childers, of Moultrie, reports, “I spent the opening morning of the youth season with a buddy and his son in northern Thomas County. It was overcast and misting occasionally. We heard the first gobble around 7:15, and they became more frequent as the morning went on. We had three longbeards work their way across an open field gobbling the whole time; however, they only came as close as 60 yards and would not close the distance. This is the most gobbling that I have heard in recent weeks. I try to listen at least a couple mornings a week leading up to the season to get an idea of where the birds are. This year, they have been fairly quiet on mornings that I’ve listened. Several other guys that I’ve talked to have heard quite a few on days they have gone to listen. I think the amount of gobbling you hear just depends on what particular morning you are in the woods.

“I wasn’t able to hunt any during opening weekend, but most of the reports I got were that the birds were very quiet. However, there were a good many birds that got killed. There seems to be plenty of birds around south Georgia this year, so if you spend a little time hunting them, odds are that you’ll get an opportunity to bag one.”

A hunt in Cherokee County on the Saturday of youth weekend produced a first-ever turkey for 8-year-old Turner Holcomb. Turner’s gobbler weighed 20 pounds and had an 8 1/2-inch beard.


A Sumter County hunt during the youth weekend produced this big gobbler for 9-year-old Tripp Williams, of Smithville.

Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “I didn’t get to go opening weekend, but I did hear of a few birds killed around here. Harry Sanders doubled up with a buddy to kill two nice birds. My cousin Amity heard some, but they shut up once they hit the ground. The weather wasn’t the best for opening day, and Sunday wasn’t any better.

“The birds are gobbling their heads off around here. My brother heard some one morning as he was getting ready to clear some land, and my neighbor’s mom had one gobbling at her place. I think they are a little head of schedule this year by about two weeks because I can’t remember dogwoods blooming before April. Looking forward to a good year.”

Walton County: Darrell Dickens, of Loganville, reports, “Opening morning I heard one bird gobble on the roost a couple of times, but he was way off the property I could hunt. Around 9:30 that morning, I decided to go to another property that was right down the road. It didn’t take me long to locate a gobbler there. I did a series of yelps and cut hard on my mouth call, and he double gobbled. Then a hen started yelping close to him. I got set up on the powerline. As I waited on the gobbler and hen to show up, another gobbler came out on to the powerline several hundred yards away. Then a hen came out with him and began feeding. He was going in and out of strut for about 10 minutes, and then I decided to make a move since the original gobbler was still gobbling but wasn’t getting any closer. By the time I got around to the second bird, he had already left the powerline, and the hen was making her way back into the woods, as well. Not knowing exactly which direction he went, and the fact he wasn’t gobbling, I decided to go after the first gobbler again. He hadn’t moved much and was still gobbling every 5 to 10 minutes. I located him and two hens in a food plot. I snuck around and got set up, but he had no interest in leaving them and never got closer than 70 yards to me. Didn’t hunt on Sunday of opening weekend due to it being Easter.”

Wayne County: David Earl Tyre, of Jesup, reports, “Just getting over ‘broncho-pneumonia,’ so I didn’t feel much like hitting the woods opening morning. I have done a little scouting the past week and have seen zero turkeys. No gobbling, no sign… nothing!  I did have a couple of hens in the backyard in February. I usually have flocks that time of the year visiting us from across the river  (Long County and Griffin Ridge WMA). We put out shelled corn and nobody on the bluff shoots them, and I think they know they are protected. I hunt two farms in Wayne County in addition to the WMAs I hunt, and I have not seen much turkey sign on these particular places, so your guess is as good as mine to what is going on.

“We are experiencing some light rain the next few days, so I won’t be going on the hunt. Just don’t want to push things with my health and all. As soon as things get back to normal, I’ll be in the woods and will give a report for April. I usually do my turkey hunting in April anyhow.”

Aidan Black, 11, of Cleveland, was hunting Glascock County with his dad Joe Black and cousin John Davidson on Sunday of the youth weekend when he got this mature longbeard. It was Aidan’s first turkey.

Wheeler County: TJ Fountain reports, “The 2016 opener began with dreary weather and rains in and out. This lead to a fairly quiet weekend. The turkeys gobbled a few times in the tree, but they got quiet once they flew down. I’m seeing them with hens right now, and I’m sure that’s contributing to the quietness on the ground. Most of the gobblers I have seen already have their hens with them or are close by to them.

“Opening morning gave us a few gobbles in the tree and none on the ground, and we were not striking any during the morning hunt. We went back in the evening and saw some gobblers from a distance across a clearcut going to roost.

“Sunday morning brought even less gobbling. I only heard two gobbles on the roost, unsure of the exact location, but I set up and called sparingly anyway. About an hour later I was cut off with a gobble about 75 yards out. A big gobbler and two jakes came in, and I was lucky enough to get a shot on the big gobbler.

“With wet weather continuing, I’m looking for gobblers in fields, pastures and clearcuts. They will be in an open area during rains usually. The breaks on the days between showers should bring some nice gobbling mornings. I will continue to  keep my cameras on logging roads, sandbed roads and food plots as well as listening in the mornings every chance I get. I believe the hens will begin to break off more and more in the days to come as I have already been seeing them in the afternoons by themselves. That tells me they are almost ready to begin nesting.”

Foster Holland, of Evans, who is 8 years old, got his first-ever gobbler on March 19 while hunting in Burke County with his dad, GON subscriber Chris Holland. The bird had a 10 1/2-inch beard, 1 1/4-inch spurs, and it weighed 20 pounds.

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