Turkey Hunters Hopeful For Rebound Georgia Season
GON Hunt Advisor Reports for April 2018
As is often the case during the opening weekends of Georgia’s turkey season—both the youth opener and the general season opener a week later—the gobbling reports ranged from red hot in some counties to non-existent in some others. Overall, Georgia turkey hunters hope this season will mark the beginning of a return to the quality of turkey hunting we used to see in Georgia. Here are reports from across the state from GON’s Hunt Advisor team.
Floyd County: Hunter Galloway, of Dallas, reports, “I usually start out turkey season by taking a kid on the Georgia special opportunity season. I took Kalie Tidwell last season, and I took her again this season. I have roughly 60 acres of family land in Floyd County with a 20-acre hay field on it. Every season, the turkeys pile into my property. We can see up to 30 turkeys in a group sometimes, so I always have confidence in hearing a gobble or seeing turkeys here.
“On March 17 (the Saturday morning of the Special Opportunity weekend season), we heard 15 gobbles all together on roost and until about 20 minutes after fly down, which is average for here. Around 9:30 a.m., I heard a gobble, and the turkey was entering the field by himself.
“Kalie missed the shot, but the following morning she sealed the deal. A total of four longbeards flew down into the field and had no hens with them, and Kalie killed one of them.
“At the time, the gobblers did not seem to be grouped up with hens, but they were for sure searching and very gullible to come in to calling. I hunted opening morning of the regular season March 24 and heard very few gobbles and even saw a few gobblers with hens. Opening weekend was a little bit colder than the Special Opportunity weekend. Personally, I think the weather going from cold to warm then back to cold affects them, but once it turns warm, it should set them off.”
Madison County: Keith Ingram, of Comer, reports, “I didn’t do as much pre-season scouting before the season as I normally do, but I do know they were gobbling pretty good three weeks prior to the opener and pretty good youth weekend. It was mostly limb gobbling and not much at all on the ground. As of youth weekend, the toms were still covered up with hens, and I expect that problem to continue well into the season, so it may require a lot of patience.
“I did have the pleasure of taking a young man named Joshua Riddle, from Honea Path, South Carolina, opening day of youth weekend. I met Joshua through the Outdoor Dreams Foundation. We did not get a bird, but he did get to hear some pretty good gobbling. There were plenty of hens with them. Opening morning began very noisy from the limb with lots of gobbling, but it shut off as soon as they got on the ground. I was set up on a large food plot and planned on spending the day there if I had to. Around 9 a.m., I got a faint response to my favorite box. I waited a couple of minutes and called again, and two answered a whole lot closer. Ten minutes later they were in front of me, and it was four jakes, two of which were gobbling and strutting. They finally decide to leave, and the woods were quiet again. Shortly before 10, I got another answer, but it was way off. I waited a few minutes and called again, and he answered again, but this time a gobbler hammered back at me not 30 yards behind me. I could hear them coming up the ridge, and they came out in the plot no more than 15 yards to my left, and it was three longbeards. I was able to take two of them and could have taken the third but let him walk off.
“I think the key right now is patience, and just let them do their thing off the roost. If they won’t cooperate, just wait them out. I feel a little better about our numbers this spring than I have in the past. Was sure glad to see those jakes, just hope they survive.”
Meriwether County: Jason Swindle Sr., of Carrollton, reports, “Opening morning was very active. The birds on our property seem to be on clockwork every year when it comes to gobbling. I check the exact time of “first light” the next morning, and within a couple of minutes, the first gobble is heard in the woods.
Same thing happened on Saturday.
But, when the gobblers hit the ground, they must have been henned up. The last gobble I heard was when they were still roosted.
My trail cameras showed birds in the food plots after 1 p.m. So, I set up on the food plot next to Beech Creek at 12:30. Between 2 and 6, I saw two groups of jakes. Both groups spent 30 minutes trying to impress my decoys.
But, the gobblers have plenty of hens on the property. We harvest most of our toms during the nesting period from April 1 until the end of the season.”
Monroe County: Greg Grimes, of Ball Ground, reports, “Opening day of the youth season had us scratching our heads. Two days of hunting and not a single gobble heard near or far. Where do they go when 12 longbeards were seen the last day of deer season?
“Opening morning of the regular season was more of the same. I heard nothing. Glen Butler, a neighbor from a few miles down, said it was the slowest opener he had ever hunted. Randy Vining has been battling some health issues and heard nothing at fly down but knew to stay positive. He called in a lonely double-gobbling tom in the swamp and was blessed with a great opener, harvesting a nice mature gobbler. My confidence was not as good as Randy’s with three hunts now and not a turkey sound, so I went to work on some lakes. However upon my return at midday, I saw two longbeards in the food plot, and I knew my only chance to sneak in was to hop in my stand-up paddle board and go across the lake with gun, decoy and all. I got set up below them and hoped they were still around. With just three soft calls, I looked up to see a gobbler walking in silent. Not sure if I got gobbler fever or what, but I managed to let him get past my shooting lanes and past me at under 30 yards with no shot fired. I felt like an idiot but didn’t force the walking-away, 50-yard shot, so now I can kill him later while in strut and gobbling.
“JD Richards was on birds Saturday but could not seal the deal. The next day his dad Vince was leaving the fire department at 8 a.m. and got the text they were gobbling but in the back field. He joined JD as they heard mature birds, jakes and hens talking, and they managed to get between the turkeys. With some sweet talk, three longbeards came into the decoy spread. To spite the rain, JD got his, and they came close to the daily double.
“As far as the overall turkey population, it seems good in Monroe County with hit-or-miss gobbling activity on the opener. I think you just have to stay after them if you see turkey sign and have confidence that on one of the hunts you will hit it right—you can play the chess match that is turkey hunting.”
Camden County: Spud Woodward was in the woods for the Special Opportunity Hunt,
“My turkey hunting protégé, Maddox Stroud, and I made it three youth weekends in a row this past Saturday down in Camden County,” Spud said. “We set up the strutting gobbler/twin hen decoy spread on the edge of our dove field and had gobbling birds on both sides by 7 a.m. In fact, we had at least eight different birds gobbling within earshot for about 45 minutes. The gobbling tapered off, and it soon became obvious that most of the gobbling birds had hens for company.
“Around 8 a.m., a single mature bird came into view about 200 yards away at the edge of the dove field. Two hens were out in the dove field and immediately caught his attention. Over the next couple of hours, we watched him follow the two hens around, strutting in the sunlight and giving us a great performance but never coming closer than 150 yards.
“By 10 a.m., the strutter and hens had moved into the woods and out of sight, so I decided it was time for us to make a move. We headed to a nearby ground blind located in the vicinity of where we had heard some birds on the roost and some sporadic gobbling during the morning. We placed the decoys in the adjacent dirt road, and I made a few soft yelps. Fifteen minutes passed. I made a few more soft yelps, and we thought we heard a muffled gobble in response to my calling. Another five minutes went by, and I caught some motion to the left of the blind.
“A gobbler was running down the road in that characteristic puffed-up, I’m-going-to-kick-some-butt attitude. He stopped at the lead hen decoy, strutted for 30 seconds, then continuing running past the second hen decoy to the strutting gobbler decoy. He immediately dropped into a strut within kissing distance of the decoy. Maddox made a great shot and a clean kill. It was a 2-year-old with 7/8-inch spurs and a 9-inch beard.
“We celebrated with BBQ for lunch and hunted again that afternoon seeing or hearing no turkeys from our setup.”
Crisp County: Jodi Manders, of Vienna, reports, “We are ready for turkey season. We have been scouting the property and pinning down some roosting areas. The gobblers have not been very vocal early on but seem to be picking up some. We have heard them gobble briefly just before daylight while still on the roost. Once they hit the ground they gobbled a few times, and then it was a while before we heard any. They seem to like scratching around in the fields early and then move into the pines and scratch around the trees and in the pine straw. The two groups of gobblers we saw were still in bachelor groups and not with hens yet.
“The population this year seems to be about the same as the last couple of years, but maybe not as many jakes. We have a good population of turkeys. Good luck to you all. Hunt safe, God bless!”
Harris County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “After family commitments prevented me from hunting on opening day, I spent the second morning of turkey season hunting on a 790-acre timber lease in Harris County. Two fellow hunting-club members who hunted this same property on opening morning had reported hearing three different gobblers, but all was quiet the second morning of the season. Only one lonely hen visited my setup to entertain me and keep me awake. It’s already obvious, based on preseason scouting and opening-weekend hunting reports, that Harris County turkey hunters are going to have to work extra hard to get their birds again this year.
“On the three Harris County properties I have access to hunt, the turkey populations continue to be way down from what they were just a few years ago. Everyone I talk to seems to have an opinion as to why that is, but the only significant difference that everyone seems to agree on from a decade ago to now is the presence of a significant number of coyotes on their properties. So, unless you have the time and money to remove a large number of these menaces from your hunting property, I’m sad to say that this may be the ‘new normal’ for turkey hunting, both in Harris County specifically and in Georgia as a whole.”
Early County: Sam Klement, Founder of Good Outdoor Technologies/Huntin is Good! hunts a trophy-managed lease in southwest Georgia on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. “I had the pleasure to hunt Georgia youth opener with a couple of kids in Meriwether County filming for the new web series ‘Realtree Spring Thunder.’ Our birds gobbled great on Saturday and stayed vocal pretty much all morning, slacking off a bit during midday. We called up several gobbling turkeys to the gun and camera for our hunters. Unfortunately, a little case of Feather Fever kept showing up, and we were unable to get these youngsters their first kills. That’s OK though… they got to see some of the best in-your-face gobbling I have seen in while—no doubt they will be turkey hunters for life!
“The birds are very henned up now, and the gobblers are staying close behind. We had to really get aggressive with our calls to lure a few gobblers away from the bunch. In a couple of cases we ended up calling in the whole flock with no good ethical shot being presented without killing multiple birds before the flock caught on to our extra movement and slipped off gobbling. Chalk one up for the gobblers!
“For opening day of the regular season, I will be hunting with a bunch of longtime friends—Ricky Joe Bishop, country singer Rhett Akins, Andy Griggs and Nate Hosie, the host of Headhunters TV show. This would have been our 17th annual Country Goes Huntin’ event, but we are not doing this event. Rather, we are doing an honor hunt for another one of our good buddies, country singer Daryle Singletary who passed away a few weeks ago. We are hoping to do future events honoring Daryle’s legacy and raise some dollars for his four children. It won’t be the same without old DBD in camp! We will all be shooting double barrels in his honor. Our birds in Early County are right on schedule, and I anticipate a few of the guys in camp scoring on birds.
“Good luck to all my fellow hunters. I cannot overemphasize how much value I put on these type hunts with my buddies! Enjoy your family and friends and every single minute of the camp experience—there are no guarantees there will be another one!
“Rest in Peace Double Barrel Daryle. We will be thinking of you on this opening day!”
Muscogee County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, reports, “Unfortunately, I haven’t had an opportunity to turkey hunt in Muscogee County this season as I write this, but I’ll be spending the first Monday of the season on a well-managed 185-acre Muscogee County farm. I also plan to spend many more mornings and afternoons on this property as the season progresses. Over the years, this farm has been very good to the landowner and myself, but last year was a very tough one for gobblers on this property. Preseason scouting indicates that this may be another lean year, as well, with only two mature gobblers located thus far. One of those, which just showed up the Friday before opening day traveling with two hens, has a broken-off 7- to 8-inch beard, but he’s obviously a mature gobbler. Either of us will be very glad to tag him, especially the way we’re guessing this season will go!
“The overall turkey population on this property is down significantly, and the gobbler population is the lowest I’ve ever seen it. In fact, we hunted this property hard last year and did not see a single jake (we no longer shoot jakes). That told us two things—reproduction was down again the previous year, and this season will be doubly tough without any of those vocal 2-year-olds that we all love so much running around.
“This is a farm where coyotes are plentiful, and wild hogs started to move in last year. I actually got charged by a 150- to 200-lb. boar near the end of turkey season last year while walking across a field before daylight (not a good feeling when you’re carrying only a single-shot shotgun loaded with turkey shot!) Both the turkeys and their nests are taking a big hit from predators these days. Because the gobbler numbers are much lower than they have been in years past, we’ll just hunt harder and longer—hunt more afternoons as well as mornings, especially on plowed and planted fields.”
Twiggs County: Richie Green, of Jeffersonville, reports, “Opening morning was about as quiet as I’ve ever heard as far as gobbling goes. I did hear some shots though, which meant some of the birds I was hunting might be in the freezer now.
“My daughter Laci and I were behind the house looking for a bird I’ve been getting pictures of for a month, but he didn’t say a word unless he was one that got shot across the creek. We left there and went to another piece of land, and I made a few calls after we set up, and a gobbler caught me moving by not saying a word and sneaking in. So, Sunday morning we set up on the same plot, and she got her first turkey ever. Needless to say she is hooked now.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how the season plays out with the early spring we had and the cold temps coming back. Just sit and sit some more, and maybe they will come because the gobbling is not there yet.”
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