Georgia Turkey Season Update
With turkey populations down and a delayed opening day, it’s been a challenge in the Georgia woods.
If allowing mature gobblers more time to breed hens before hunters get involved in the equation will result in more baby turkeys, poult counts should rebound this summer. The season started April 2—13 days later than the 2021 opener—and public land didn’t open until April 9. Then throw in some tough hunting conditions once the season opened.
As always, some tracts of land have turkeys and have seen good hunting. There are still a few weeks of hunting remaining before the turkey season closes May 15. Still hope. And the hunting may get better as hens start ignoring the gobblers. Below are the reports from GON’s Hunt Advisor Team:
Cherokee County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “This season has been full of action here in Cherokee. We have a lot of birds of all age groups, which keeps us guessing what’s going to happen next as the age groups respond to calls differently. My grandson Tyler got a bird April 10 on a morning when the temps were cold, but we had some gobbling on the roost which started at 7:15 a.m. At 7:45, we had a gobbler and two hens about 80 yards out. He wanted nothing to do with our calls. Then out of the hollow below us a gobbler came up to challenge the other gobbler for hen attention. We decided to give somewhat of a loud hen call, and this gobbler came out of the same hollow straight to us which proved to be a critical mistake for him! Turkeys are somewhat sneaky, so you must not let your guard down. While the birds on the ridge 80 yards out were very vocal, this bird came out of nowhere not saying anything, and without being very vigilant it could have been a bust.”
“As for the remaining season, I would try setting up around open areas, like a clover patch, if possible. As the temp has finally gotten warmer, the insects will be hitting the blooming vegetation, which will lure the birds in to feed. They also like to pick the clover blooms. The hens that have been bred are singling out and looking for an area to nest, which means fewer hens to get a gobbler’s attention. That is good for us hunters who still have some tricks in the old hunting vest.
“Well, I guess that’s a wrap until bow season. Until then, stay calm and hunt on!”
Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “My 2022 season started with youth weekend as I took a young man from the Outdoor Dream Foundation. That weekend was very tough as we only heard one gobbler sound off four times from the roost on Sunday morning. The weather was terrible with very high winds and cold temperatures. Opening weekend brought somewhat better weather, with still chilly temps, but no wind, and the gobblers were talking just a little. My son Zack and I could only hunt until 9:30. We heard three on the roost, but none were very close and all got quiet after fly down. Finally we heard a distant gobble, and I looked at my phone and it was 8:39. I knew we didn’t have time to go to him. I said, ‘Let’s try to work him from here,’ so I made a few loud yelps on my favorite box, but no response. About five minutes later he gobbled on his own and had cut the distance in half, and at 9:13 he came slipping in from behind us, and Zack was able to take him with 17 minutes to spare. The next morning, roost gobbling was better, but they shut up when they hit the ground. Around 8 I called and got an instant response about 100 or so yards out, and I could tell there was more than one bird, and my first thought was jakes. Turns out there were three pretty good birds, and they gobbled at every call I made. When they finally came into view, they were about 70 yards out and looked like triplets just gobbling and strutting all the way in. They finally separated enough for me to take the one in the back. When he hit the ground, the other two started strutting around him. Then they ran up to my jake decoy, but they started fighting with each other. I got a pretty awesome video of it, as they were oblivious to me.”
“Opening weekend kept a streak alive for Zack and me, that at least one of us got a bird on the opener at eight years in a row, but it’s the first time we have both done it.
“As for the season up until now, it has been pretty slow, with very little gobbling. Zack did come close to getting his second bird the second Saturday but got caught trying to ease his gun up on a couple silent toms that slipped in quiet.
“It’s been a weird season for sure, as the gobblers just have stayed on the quiet side. I don’t know if it’s predators, a dominant bird or what, but it’s been a lot different. Our numbers seem to still be just holding steady, not actually growing like I would hope. We are very fortunate, that we have a low-member club, and the turkeys don’t get hammered with pressure, so a few gobblers make it through from year to year. I’ve hunted less this season than I have in years because of the weather and family commitments, but I do plan on going as much as I can until the end. May even try an evening hunt before it’s over. I do hope the new regulations the state has implemented will help, but I just have my doubts. I guess time will tell.”
Fayette and Meriwether Counties: Jeff Scurry, of Fayetteville, reports, “This season has been overall slow. Turkey numbers are definitely down. I have noticed the decline past three years. I believe there are a number of factors that contribute to this—predation, timing of control burning, and just overall less poults being born and surviving. Based on research the past 10 years in the Southeast, I think we all need to help with predator control in the off season, and maybe rethink when to do control burns. The total number of turkeys seen this year is way down, including hens.”
“As far as late-season tactics, I suggest hunting midday when toms are out searching. I would hunt field edges and open logging roads. If you find a sandy dusting area, that’s a great spot for midday hunts. Toms like to be seen by hens, that’s why you see them strutting in open fields all the time.”
Jasper County: Tim Zech, of Monticello, reports, “Turkeys have been scarce in Jasper County this year compared to the past. Definitely seeing the population decline continue that we have noticed over the last four years.
“That being said, I had my season made by guiding a youth hunter name Bodee on youth weekend. If there was a peak of the turkey ‘rut,’ I would have to say it was on the youth weekend March 26-27. Being that Bodee had never turkey hunted before, I was trying to give him all kinds of insight and to temper his expectations. At daylight I had gobblers hammer at my first owl hoot. Three gobblers continued gobbling over each other for an hour straight, but they headed to a neighbor’s pasture. Bodee got cold, so we went back to the truck to get him my spare jacket and leafy suit.
“Thirty minutes later on the other end of the same property, another gobbler sounded off at my first set of yelps. He gobbled three more times on his own as we moved around to get set up on a creek bank. Once set, he cut me off again on my first call at 150 yards, then proceeded to gobble all the way in to the gun—my 40-year-old .410 single shot with No. 6 lead. I knew he would need to be close, and he was. The old tom jumped up on a log at 20 yards and strutted and gobbled. As soon as he jumped off the log, he gobbled again at 18 yards and finally stood still on the other side of the creek bank—and it was over. Bodee was ecstatic, and so was I.”
“I messed up my own hunting with a family trip the first week of the regular season, so I missed a few key days in the woods. Seemed like a good time to book it a year ago before the season date changes. Starting on April 10, I spent four days in a row in the woods without a single gobble. I did call in some hens, but the birds just are not here like they used to be. Hens are laying now, so perhaps the toms will have to start working a bit harder for love.
“With the numbers as they are, I agree something had to be done with dates and limits, so I am OK with what the state is trying to do.
“Collectively we all need to do what we can to help the population, and I personally feel like trapping predators is something we can all do—or hire it done. Best of luck to you all for the remainder of the season.”
Walton County: Xane Bennett, of Monroe, reports, “The very first part of the season was difficult throughout the county on multiple different properties due to henned-up gobblers and unsteady weather. My approach quickly became less about getting a gobbler fired up and more about communicating and luring in the hens on the property. After multiple fantastic hunts but still no filled tag, I had a breakthrough at 7:45 a.m. April 11. I quickly called in a hen out of a hardwood funnel and into a field with a very fine tom behind her. As I watched him dance and gobble frantically at about 80 yards, the hen very cautiously tried to locate the slow yelps she just recently heard. I decided to just shut up and let mother nature play it out. As they both approached, I took the gobbler on from 41 yards and dropped him first shot. No bad day in the turkey woods, but that was a great day.”
“As the season is closing in on its final weeks, I am playing the game a lot more aggressively. As gobblers get lonely, they tend to move more in search of a hen still looking to breed. Don’t overcall, but for sure take advantage of a response no matter how big or small. If you can bear the heat, the last two weeks of the turkey woods can be some of the best hunting of the season.
“From personal interaction to family and friends, the turkey numbers do seem to be down in Walton County compared to last year. Either your property holds turkeys, or it doesn’t for miles. Hopefully we can resolve population issues in the coming years so our future generations can enjoy this pleasure we all have cherished for years.”
Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Cordele, reports. “Finally, turkey season is here. I wasn’t too thrilled about waiting an extra week to hunt. I had been doing some early season scouting, and it didn’t look very promising. We were seeing a fair amount of turkeys during deer season, but the numbers are down. I was a little worried about opening day because the two weeks prior to Saturday while scouting I didn’t hear or see any turkeys at all, not even a track. There is usually scratching sign all over, and I have not seen any at all. That was not good. We went opening day not expecting a whole lot. But the turkeys were there—well, they were on the property next to us and a good distance away. Two birds gobbled for almost an hour starting just before daylight. That was a great sound to hear.
“We heard a gobbler every morning for the first five days we hunted. I saw a hen late one morning out scratching around in one of the bigger food plots and a couple more working their way through the pines. Tuesday of opening week I heard one gobble just after daylight while still on the roost. He gobbled for 20 minutes and flew down on the other side from where I was set up. Gobbled a few times after fly down, but he wouldn’t commit to get in close enough for a shot.
“I thought the season was going to be good after hearing and seeing birds the first couple of weeks, but it has proven to be the opposite. The birds just are not gobbling, and when they don’t gobble, it is a guessing game. We have seen gobblers strutting in a distant field on the adjoining property, but they were with hens and didn’t want any part of what we were offering. But at least I know they are still close by, so we won’t give up.”
“We will try to roost one or two and get in early hoping they will fly down in our direction. I have seen quite a few hens midday to early afternoon in fields. So that midday hunt might pay off. Hopefully the population will get better, or they will move back into our area. I found part of an egg shell laying in the road. Hopefully the whole nest didn’t get robbed, but more than likely it did. That’s probably part of our problem.
“Hope you all are successful in your hunt. Hunt safe, God Bless!”
Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “As a first-hand example that nothing impacts turkey populations more than habitat loss, or severe habitat degradation, the turkey hunting on our 790-acre timber company lease in Harris County went from outstanding to almost non-existent basically overnight approximately a half-dozen years ago when the vast majority of the hardwood timber on our leased property was logged. The turkeys had always handled logging of the pine timber well, but their reaction to the cutting of the hardwoods, which were major feeding and roosting areas for the birds, was to essentially vanish. Compounding the problem was a huge increase in the property’s coyote population over the last decade, as well as a significant increase in nest predator numbers, primarily raccoons, very likely brought about by a combination of year-round supplemental deer feeding and lack of trappers to trap these furbearers.
“I’ve turkey hunted on this property several times this season, mornings and afternoons, but haven’t seen a turkey or heard a gobble yet. But I’m a turkey hunter, which means I’m stubborn, so I’ll keep at it until the end of the season. This was the same situation I faced on this property last season, and I did what I’ve always done—unless I’ve limited out first—and that’s to hunt through the season’s last day. When I did that last year, I was rewarded with a mature gobbler that I called in and killed during literally the last hour of the last day of the season. I actually called in two twin 2-year-old longbeards—the only gobblers I saw on that property all season—but it was definitely worth the wait! So, based on recent personal experience, my advice is to keep hunting and don’t give up until the season ends. because good surprises can and do happen!
“I want to address one other concern I have about something that’s happening in Harris County, and a neighboring county, related to our turkey harvest. As I write this, based on current GA GameCheck records, over 20% of the turkey harvest in Harris County thus far this season has been comprised of jakes. In Troup County, which borders Harris County to the north, jakes make up a whopping 25% of the current harvest. As most of you know, jakes and not considered to be a part of the breeding turkey population. I don’t understand why, when we’ve shortened the turkey season, are starting the turkey season later, reduced the daily bag limit, and reduced the season limit—all for the sake of increasing the number of hens being bred and the number of gobblers available to breed them—we’re still allowing immature birds to be killed before they’re even mature enough to join the breeding population. This is a serious issue in my view, and something I hope and trust the DNR will quickly address. However, if they don’t, it’s something we as turkey hunters can address ourselves by what I call trigger control. Just like we don’t have to shoot every gobbler on a property just because they’re there. In short, with the turkey population in many areas as low as it is currently, just because we can does not necessarily mean that we should.”
Muscogee County: Jimmy Harper reports, “I experienced another great turkey season on the same 185-acre Muscogee County farm that I’ve had the pleasure of hunting for many years now. The landowner intensively manages this relatively small property for both deer and turkeys by maintaining year-round food plots, providing supplemental feed, conducting yearly controlled burns, and maintaining both selective and restrictive harvests. Those harvest restrictions during turkey season have, for many years, prohibited the killing of jakes completely, and, for the last three years, have limited turkey hunting to the use of archery equipment only. So a “great” season for me no longer is measured just by the number of gobblers killed but more by the total experience and the challenge of the turkey hunts themselves. In that regard, the landowner and I have been into turkeys, and specifically mature gobblers, each and every time we’ve hunted this season, mornings and afternoons. Because of the small kill zone on a gobbler, we try to limit our bow shots to 20 yards or less and our crossbow shots to a 30-yard maximum. So seeing turkeys is literally far removed from killing a gobbler for us!
“I had several longbeards come within effective shotgun range on multiple occasions over the first three weeks of the season, but none that I could convince to come all the way into my decoys for an ethical archery shot. That finally changed the morning of April 20 when I called two mature gobblers into 30 yards during one of those classic ‘right off the roost’ hunts that we so rarely get to enjoy anymore. I put a crossbow bolt into the largest gobbler and, in an unusual reaction to an archery shot, the tom dropped dead in his tracks without even flopping. He was a beautiful 3-year-old bird weighing 17 1/2 pounds with a 10-inch beard and matching 1 1/8-inch spurs. I couldn’t have been more pleased and satisfied. This will be the only gobbler I even attempt to kill on this farm this season, because my priority now is to continue to work with the landowner to keep his turkey population thriving for many years to come.”
Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “I hope the changes made help to bring the turkey back because they are absent on my side of the county. Or should I say where I get to hunt. I see them in fields that have been vacant for years, but where I use to hear four or five gobblers when I went I’m lucky to hear one, and I’m mean lucky.
“Me and my daughter went opening morning only to have the neighbor shoot while we were walking to the food plot right at daybreak. Then they shot two more times while I was setting up the decoy. Then about 7:45 someone shot four times across the creek on another tract that borders mine, so we packed up and went to another tract where we heard nothing. We’ve been two more times and no gobbles.
“Me and my granddaughter did get one gobbling around 10 one morning that should have come in, but I forgot the decoy that morning and he would not come out into the plot after traveling 300 yards to get there.”
“I got drawn for Bond Swamp with three of my kinfolk, and I had a bird gobbling at 11 o’clock, the only bird any of us heard all morning, but some water had him hung up because of it being flooded everywhere. Blake Floyd did get set up on him after noon and got him to 35 yards but missed.
“I haven’t killed a bird in four years because I try to save them for my girls, but it doesn’t seem like that will happen this year either. I know some people have birds out there, they always do, but around here it is slim because of trees being cut and changing the habitat. I only have small tracts to hunt, so I’m limited to what I can do, but I have seen some neighbors improving their property for turkey, and it’s already working great. I see some about every time I ride down their road, so thank you for that.
“I hope we can get back to when three or four birds gobbling about every morning, but I’m a little skeptical with all the predators and land development going on these days. Good luck to all that have birds, and pray for those that don’t.”
Other Articles You Might Enjoy