Another Quiet Spring In The Georgia Turkey Woods
The 2019 season was another disappointment for most turkey hunters in Georgia.
Any hope that this would be the season to turn things around for Georgia turkey hunters was dampened by yet another year of quiet mornings. Despite the pictures of success in this hunting report, overall hunters say they still aren’t hearing near the amount gobbling they used to, and most say they just don’t have the turkeys like they once did.
GON did an informal poll on our Facebook page last week, and of the more than 1,200 folks who voted, 75 percent said the gobbling was even worse than last season, which was a bad year.
Here are reports from across the state from our Hunt Advisors.
Cherokee County: Tim Dangar, of Ball Ground, reports, “Dogwoods are full bloom, and the birds are lighting it up on the roost right now. First gobble here in Cherokee occurs around 7:15, and they can go til 8:15 with the last 10 minutes being very intense. We’re seeing a lot of hens singled out, probably looking for place to nest. It’s been a fun season, starting with youth weekend and working forward. As I get older, I tend to celebrate the various levels of success. Level one: Finding birds. That can be fresh scratching in hardwoods or fresh poop in food plots with dust bowls —place where birds dust themselves to control mites—around the edge.
“Level two: Getting the perfect set figured out. It can be in a blind or backed up to a big tree with good field of view. Level three: Picking the perfect morning to hunt. For me, that means warm, with just enough breeze to move decoys around and clear
“Level four: Getting a bird to respond to call and actually get them close enough to see. Level five: Pull the trigger. This can include missing. You may say why celebrate a miss? Because after all, you did get that bird close enough for a shot, and that can take some doing.
“Level six: Getting someone to take that 5X7 glossy with tail fanned out and beard in full view. And last but not least, level seven: Skin that bird out, put a brown sugar and honey paste all over it, cook on grill at 350 for about one hour, depending on size of bird, and then eat well. Hope y’all have a great summer, and we will pick this up in the fall. God Bless!”
Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “I’m sitting against a tree debating on whether or not this is going to be my last hunt of the season or not. It’s just been that kind of a season.
“The positive to this season is that it looks like we had a decent hatch last spring, with a good number of young birds in the woods. On the negative side, that seems to be the majority of what’s in the woods this year. Very few mature birds, and they have been non talkative, but of course they have been henned up for the first part of the season.
“I have learned a valuable lesson this season, and I’m a believer in you reap what you sow, and sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. I have been very fortunate, and it looks like too fortune these past few years, and it caught up with me this season. Starting next season I will be a one-and-done if I’m lucky enough, until the numbers can hopefully rebound.
“I could have taken jakes on several occasions, but why do it and just keep putting yourself behind the eight ball? I wish the state would consider cutting the limit back to two, and make jakes illegal except to youth. I’m just doing some venting here, but most of it is detected at myself.”
Columbia County: Dylan Hankal, of Appling, reports, “So far this year our turkey population has been great. We seem to have a decent number of toms and jakes with about the same number of hens. The birds have been gobbling a time or two on the roost at most, but very little on the ground after fly down. We have, however, had success mid morning after the toms have bred their hens and are in the fields and open hardwoods feeding.
“This year I have heard more gobbling in the evenings than ever before, making for very good evening hunting while the birds head to roost. These roosting areas are often in hardwood bottoms and along field edges where pines and hardwoods meet. We have harvested two birds this year during the mid morning and evening using this strategy.”
Fayette County: Jeff Scurry, of Fayetteville, reports, “Seems like birds are more vocal as the season has progressed in Fayette and Meriwether counties where I hunt. The toms have gobbled from roost and briefly after fly down. Some are with hens, some are out searching for new ones, making midday hunting better as season progresses. In Meriwether County the birds are gobbling midday.
“My overall view of the turkey population in both counties where I hunt, a total of four tracts, is that the population is down tremendously. Predation has taken a toll. On one tract with very limited hunting pressure, the coons and coyotes have wiped them out. The number of hens seen in flocks also has been reduced on all tracts.”
Monroe County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “This was definitely the most frustrating hunting season ever. Since I was taking kids and first timers, I really just wanted some gobbling action to keep them in the game. After doing more hunts than ever in the past, we heard very few birds. We did see scratching, but I think the high amount of coyotes and bobcats on the property keep the calling down.
“I was hoping things would change as the season progressed, but it has not up to this point. The food plots are great and full of bugs, so I feel like the habitat is there, but the turkeys just are silent. The population is lower than expected, and it cannot be just as simple that they left the property.
“Being in the age of social media, it seems like there is so much success if you gauge it by the pictures you see. It is easy to share success. But I have heard from several others in Monroe County who have struggled, as well. Most have at least heard a few on roost, but the gobblers continue to shut up once hitting the ground.
“The number of jake sightings is good for many in Monroe County, so maybe next year will be better. We have chufa on hand and plan to plant this last week in April. It should hold more birds next spring. We have a couple more chances this month to go and are still optimistic the action will pick up. Good luck everyone on your final hunts.”
Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Vienna, reports, “As we are winding down another turkey season, things in our area have slowed way down. We have had a poor season all together as far as hearing and seeing birds this year. Not really sure why, other than we had numerous coyote pics during deer season, but we have not seen evidence of any that were killed by coyotes. In the early part of the season they were more active than now, but still not as much as in years past. We know we have a good flock, but we have not seen many this season. The few that we did hear gobble were at daybreak and right after fly down about 15 to 20 minutes after good daylight. They are feeding off into the pines where they are scratching around in the pine straw after fly down.
“We did have a great morning hunt on March 30. We got to our setup just before daylight and heard one gobbling on the roost about 150 yards away. We put out our decoy setup and got settled in our cover. Randy called twice and the bird flew down and went silent. Within 10 minutes he was headed down the path straight for our decoys, strutting and gobbling. When he got within 40 yards, I took my shot. That’s the way you wish it would go every time, but we all know the turkeys most likely don’t cooperate with our plans. He weighed 23 pounds with a 12-inch beard and 1 3/8-inch and 1 3/16-inch spurs.
“There is still time for you to get one—you just have to go after them and have lots of patience. Hunt safe, God bless!”
Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “When hunting last season on what was just a few years ago a red hot turkey hunting property in Harris County, I honestly didn’t think the hunting could get any worse. I’ve hunted long enough to know I should never think that, because I’ll regret it, and I am. My turkey season in Harris County this year has been bad—really bad. How bad, you ask? On the same 800 acres where I routinely limited out year in and year out until just a couple of years ago, I’m yet to even see a turkey—any turkey—and turkey tracks are even hard to come by. I would like to be able to blame that completely on the coyotes that have moved onto this Harris County property, but that’s only half the problem. Mature hardwood bottoms, with trees a century old, were cut on much of this property a couple of years ago, and the turkey population has taken a nose-dive since then. I now rarely even hear a gobble, and I doubt this property has what most folks would consider to be a huntable population of turkeys at this point.
“But I keep going turkey hunting, because that’s what us turkey hunters do. And, as crazy as it may sound, I’ll be stepping up my efforts as the season enters its final weeks. Besides the fact that I don’t like to get skunked on any property, I believe the clearcut areas on this property will start attracting nesting hens, and long-bearded gobblers will be following them at some point. I’m also getting a great deal of encouragement from two of my sons, Joe and Jake, and even from my 7-year-old grandson, Bentley, who all traveled many hours to turkey hunt this property with me over the last few weeks.
“So remember, no matter what property you hunt on, the last couple of weeks of the season can many times be the very best ones to kill the oldest bird in your neck of the woods!”
Johnson County: Tim Knight, of Dublin, reports, “The season here in middle Georgia has been fickle to say the least. Lots of pretty mornings and no gobbles. First week was strong but since has been hit or miss. Afternoon hunting around food plots with oats and wheat may be the go to for quiet turkeys. Look for sign just like you would for deer. Pattern turkeys and hunt them that way if they won’t gobble in the mornings.”
Muscogee County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “In my turkey hunting report on Muscogee County’s opening day last month, I reported an encounter with a mature gobbler that was spoiled by a half-dozen rowdy jakes. My hunting partner, Bud Passmore, and I went back to this same property on the first Monday morning of the season—a day we have dubbed ‘Magic Monday’ due to the streak of good luck we’ve had killing mature gobblers on this particular day of the season over multiple years—to try our luck again.
“After having the same opening-day group of jakes come into my setup and getting them to slowly move off, I was able to call this same gobbler in with a Pistol Creek diaphragm and drop him with my CVA shotgun on film for our ‘Accept the Challenge TV’ show. As I stated last month, I’m convinced this tom never would have come in if the jakes had hung around, so I made a point of stopping my calling when they came in, and I also increased my movement in the blind just enough to get them to move off without spooking them out of the county.
“Then, when the gobbler came in, he still wouldn’t come all the way into the field I was set up on. But he skirted the field edge behind my blind and circled around it close enough that he ended up taking a ride home with me in my truck!
“Preseason scouting on this 185-acre Muscogee County farm indicated this was the only mature gobbler on the property at the beginning of the season, but we expected several more toms to move in as the season wore on. Only one has. Since this farm routinely held as many mature gobblers a few years ago as it does jakes now, Bud and I decided over the last couple of years to restrict the harvest of mature gobblers until the turkey population could recover—assuming it can and will. Bud plans to shoot only one mature gobbler off of his property this season, and I’m now only hunting on it with a bow. Although I would personally like to see the season limit reduced from three gobblers to two statewide in Georgia in order to give our overall turkey population the protection it needs to recover, there is no reason why individual hunters, hunting clubs and landowners can’t do what Bud and I are doing and restrict the turkey harvest on their own on individual properties. If it will help save turkey hunting for future generations, it’s a small price for us to pay.”
Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “Well, since the awesome opening day I had, it went straight downhill. I hunted nine straight days after and never heard a bird to work if I even heard one. The weather couldn’t make it’s mind up about how cold or hot it wanted to be, and the turkeys just weren’t talking at all.
“I hunted both Beaverdam and Ocmulgee WMAs, and although the signs were there, no birds seemed to be interested in a hen or at least one that wasn’t in a tree with them. But if they were there, I never heard them either, so I don’t know what’s going on.
“Nobody I’ve talked to around here has heard much from the toms, so maybe its still a little too early. Derrick Fowler, of Danville, coaxed one in with one of his homemade calls, but it took a while. He sat on a small plot at daylight but moved to a bigger one closer to the bird. The bird gobbled half a dozen times on the roost and a few more at 9:30 a.m. Then at 11:30 a dozen gobblers came in with four longbeards mixed among them, and he had to take a 51-yard shot with his 20 gauge to seal the deal. The Wilkinson County bird weighed 17.5 pounds with a 10-inch beard and close to a 1-inch spurs.
“I haven’t talked to anyone who has had birds gobbling much, so I don’t know if it’s the birds, or I’m just talking to the wrong people. I sure haven’t been on any this year except opening day.
“And another strange thing is the hens. They are not vocal, or either not there, because I’ve only seen five all year and heard less than that. I can’t pinpoint a cause for this, but critters are my No. 1 option. I read somewhere that someone thought it was habitat being the cause, but we have some of the finest WMAs in the country with great habitat, and the birds just aren’t here like they used to be. Ocmulgee and Beaverdam are where I have killed 80 percent of my birds over the years, and the land has only gotten better, so I’m clueless. Armadillos and hogs are the biggest change that’s taken place, so I’m blaming them. Add in yotes, and the turkeys don’t have a chance.
“If you have birds, you are blessed and doing something right for sure, so enjoy. The best way to kill a bird that is silent is to get in his area and sit him out. Just call softly and scratch in the leaves and wait. I hope everyone has enjoyed being in the outdoors as much as I do. See y’all in September, I hope.”
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