Nesting Hens Give Hope For Late-Season Gobblers

It's been a good turkey season so far, and GON's Hunt Advisors feel there's still some gobbling action to come, especially later in the day after fly-down.

Daryl Kirby | April 27, 2011

Joey Tinsley and Corey New, both of Milledgeville, were hunting in Jones County when they doubled up on good birds. Corey’s tom tore up their decoy first thing in the morning but did not damage it enough to keep it from helping lure Joey’s 23.4-lb. gobbler a few hours later.

As is typical for turkey season in Georgia, opening weekend saw a flurry of activity by hunters and plenty of once vocal birds slung over shoulders not long after fly-down time. Also typical is hunting pressure that wanes as the weekends pass — just as more and more hens are going to nest earlier in the mornings.

Is there a lonely, mid-morning gobbler firing off down on your property? You’ll only know if you go, and that’s the common lesson from some of the state’s best turkey hunters who spoke with GON. Here are reports from a sampling of GON’s Hunt Advisors across the state:

Camden County: Bo Russell, of Saint Simons Island, reports, “April has been great for big gobblers in our neck of the woods. Gobbling increased and the birds, while still covered up with hens, are call-able. I expect the season to be good here on the coast for the remainder of the season unless we get one of those early heat waves. It is hard to concentrate on just gobblers when the cobia and tripletail fishing is about to hit, and the freshwater is full of spawning fish of every variety.”

Hancock County:
Matthew Gilbert, of Monroe, reports, “The ol’ turkeys have gotten tough. The season started off on fire with some close calls, but the turkeys really appear to now be scattered. We are hearing birds, but there are fewer vocal ones, and they are all over the place. As the season has moved on, the opportunities for birds has slowed down. The good thing is that we are hearing fewer hens while hunting and are starting to see them alone as if they were nesting. The turkey sign is becoming more scattered on our property, and we are having trouble locating toms once they stop gobbling. Scratching, tracks and strut marks are on our roads but without any concentrated amounts. Our neighbors to the north have a 50-plus-acre tract that was clearcut during the winter, and we are hearing some gobblers working this area. We just cannot seem to head them off before they move across the property line. Some of the neighbors have been productive killing some good birds. Reports from them state the same as what we are seeing in regards to the gobblers being vocal for a short time, and then they get quiet. Everyone has said they have had to just stay after the gobblers to find one to kill. Toms have come in quiet, while others sound off to let you know they are coming. Most birds have been said to be killed near food plots or areas that have recently been mowed.

“Even though hunting has become tough, we are optimistic the season will become productive with the hens splitting off from the toms. It seems like every year the big boys are henned up during the first month, and the second month of the season becomes more interesting. Hopefully, next month’s report will be complimented by a picture of 6- and 4-year-olds sitting next to a limb hanger they watched get blasted by Dad!”

Jasper County: Ryan Yeomans, of Covington, said the majority of the mornings he didn’t hear a gobble until the birds flew down. “By the time I get to them, they have already gathered up their hens and although still gobbling will not commit and seem to hang up 75 to 100 yards out. After keeping me entertained for about 30 minutes, they go on their way. But the morning of April 4, after listening to two birds gobble at 9 a.m., I walked to a bottom and sat down, made two calls and had three birds gobbling and running straight to me. I shot two of the three.

“This morning (April 19), I had three different birds gobbling all after hitting the ground, and I pursued the closest bird. He hung up at 100 yards and would not get any closer. After gobbling at every call and every crow for 45 minutes, he topped a ridge and continued gobbling onto another piece of private property. Overall I have heard a lot of birds this year, but they always seem to get smarter and wiser each year.”

Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “It’s been a very good turkey season. Gobbling was good during the first week of the season, then went into the usual lull for about 10 days, and now it has picked up again. Gobbling should remain good until the last week of April and then taper off significantly on into May. We’ve been seeing good numbers of all age classes of gobblers, with the 2-plus-year-olds, as usual, doing the majority of the gobbling. I was able to shoot a 3-plus-year-old tom on the afternoon of March 28 while hunting a 790-acre timber-company lease. He came in strutting and drumming at 6:50 p.m. to a loading deck that had been planted in Biologic Green Patch Plus. On the morning of April 19, while hunting another planted loading deck on the same lease, I shot a 3-year-old thunder chicken at 9:20 a.m. that lived up to its name by coming into my calling gobbling all the way. I was lucky enough to get both kills on video for our Accept the Challenge TV show.

“My suggestion for the late season in Harris County is to hunt all day if you can, especially if you’re hunting fields or food plots. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear much gobbling. The turkeys are still there — just a little wiser — but the hens are on the nest, and the gobblers will be lonely. With the amount of gobbling diminishing into May, I try to pattern the turkeys, much like I would when deer hunting, and hunt as much or more in the afternoons than I do in the mornings.”

Muscogee County: Jimmy Harper reports, “For the last couple of years, turkey hunting in Muscogee County was really tough, but we’ve seen a marked improvement this year. We’ve been seeing and hearing plenty of vocal, mature gobblers as well as a large number of jakes, so next year looks like it should be another good one. I do most of my hunting in Muscogee County with fellow Archery Adventures’ Pro-Staffer Bud Passmore on his family’s 180-acre farm. Bud has already killed two mature gobblers on video for our Accept the Challenge TV show. He shot the first tom with his Mathews Z7 bow at 5 p.m. on April 7 while hunting out of a blind on a large field. Bud killed his second bird at 8:30 a.m. on April 11 while hunting the same blind in the same field. Since we usually kill our best Muscogee County birds in May, I’m hoping Bud runs out of tags soon so I can get in on the action on his ‘big field!’

“Traditionally, we have our best late-season success in Muscogee County by hunting fields, with afternoon hunting being as good, or better, than what we experience in the mornings. That just might be your ticket to success as well. After many years of turkey hunting, I’m convinced that hunters could kill just as many gobblers, both early and late in the season, in the afternoons as they do in the mornings — if they would just put in the time.”

Carson Williams (center), of Hazlehurst, proudly smiles with his first turkey, killed opening day on a hunt donated by Three Rivers Sportsmans Club. Bobby Overstreet and David Googe guided the successful hunter. Bobby said, “No way he could miss… the bird came in so close, he could’ve killed him with a slingshot.”

This Baldwin County longbeard was killed opening morning by 14-year-old Taylor Smith, of Milledgeville. It sported a 10 3/8-inch beard, 1 1/8-inch spurs and weighed more than 21 pounds.

Jack Conner Friddell, 8, of Rutledge, got his first bird this season while hunting in Talbot County.

Victoria “Tori” Ramey, 12, of Calhoun, was hunting with her dad Frank and her uncle Gerald on a friend’s farm in Walker County on March 21 when she shot the second turkey she’s ever killed. It didn’t take the trio of hunters long to realize Tori had a pretty special bird. Weighing 21 pounds and sporting four beards that total more than 36 inches in length, they knew they had a nice atypical gobbler. When spurs of 1 1/4 and 1 1/8 inches were added into the NWTF scoring formula, Tori was looking at a total score of 117.125. Once the score is verified by NWTF, Tori should hold the new state record for a gobbler killed by a female hunter.

Grandaddy called them in, the young man shot them, and dad filmed it all. Butch Brooks (center), of Valdosta, his grandson Brooks Norton (left), of Swainsboro, along with Brooks’ dad, Don Norton (right), pose with two gobblers killed by Brooks in Johnson County. Both turkeys had 10-inch beards, and one of them had five beards.

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