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Regional Strut Update: It's Prime Time to Fill Your Tag; Get Expert Info on Where and How

Gobbling and strutting reports are on the increase in every region. Our experts agree: You need to be in the turkey woods this weekend.

Regional Strut Update: It's Prime Time to Fill Your Tag; Get Expert Info on Where and How

Turkey activity is wide-open in every region of the country. Now is your time to tag a tom. (Shutterstock image)

This is the fifth installment of the Regional Strut Update, our weekly report on turkey activity and hunter success across the country (see last week's report). This week's report includes:

  • In the East, Doug Howlett says that next week's forecast of unseasonably warm temperatures should turn on the gobblers, which is welcome news considering the fluctuating weather and turkey activity that has characterized the early season.
  • In the South, Josh Honeycutt reports hunting has continued to be strong all across the region with good weather and responsive turkeys. With some seasons winding down, you need to hit the woods before it’s too late.
  • In the Midwest, Brandon Butler urges hunters to get out after birds, especially with the positive field reports on turkey activity and numbers. "Get going," Butler says, "because this season has begun as one to remember." Where possible, hunt from midday on to increase your odds.
  • In the West, Andrew McKean says hunting is now open virtually everywhere in the region, and hunters "are rocking the gobs." Mid-morning hunting has been effective in many areas.
turkeys in field
Photo courtesy of Josh Honeycutt


More States Open this Week; Cool Temps Should Yield to Warmer Days
  • Turkey activity across the region seems to be fluctuating with the up-and-down weather.

By Doug Howlett

Last week’s cold snap gave way to a few days of seriously warm weather more common to late spring. It came just in time for the opening of turkey season in Delaware, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia—and hunters in the woods were able to make the most of it. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. Cooler weather and some rain returned across the region and shut the birds down—at least compared to how they had acted earlier in the week.

This week, warmer temperatures have returned and birds are gobbling and strutting in full force. Many are still henned up, so unless you get tight on one off the roost, try to catch up with mid- or late-morning birds whose hens have left them for the nest.

Since our last report, seasons opened in New Jersey (April 22) and Connecticut (April 24), while Rhode Island kicks things off April 25. The mercury will dip the next couple of days, so expect that to cool some gobbling. Where rain is in the mix, look for large flocks of birds moving to fields where you can hopefully get eyes on them and set up ahead of where they are going.

If a flock is moving your way, sit tight, keep your calling to a minimum (super-soft calls like purrs and soft clucks, or leaf scratching) and let the turkeys simply move past, taking a shot when it presents itself. If they are lulling in the middle or working away, switch gears and go aggressive with the calls in an attempt to fire up a jealous hen, who may then pull the entire flock your way as she tries to confront the interloper (you). The gobbler or gobblers will usually bring up the rear in such situations, so make sure you are loaded with turkey shotshells capable of delivering tight patterns at distances out to 40 to 45 yards. Choose your shot wisely; you don’t want to hit multiple birds or the wrong bird by accident. If the shot doesn’t present itself, sit tight, let them wander off and set up again.

Next week, the forecast through much of the region looks to pop into unseasonably warm temps, which will get birds fired up and gobbling like crazy. If your season is open and you can score a day or two off early next week, it might be a good time to do so.

Every state in the region not open this week will be open by next Wednesday, so the warm weather should hit just in time for an epic opening day for many.


tagged out turkey
North Carolina hunter Chase Windley tagged this gobbler on April 20 during a turkey trip to West Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Chase Windley)
Stuck in the Middle
  • Hunter: Chase Windley
  • Date: April 20
  • Location: West Virginia
  • Method: Shotgun
  • Stats: 10 1/5-inch beard; 1 3/8-inch spurs

Chase Windley made the trip from North Carolina to West Virginia to chase Mountain State gobblers over the weekend. He didn’t hear a gobble on Friday, April 19, but Saturday morning was a different story, as he got on a roosted tom gobbling nearly an hour before sunrise. The terrain was a large, grassy field on a ridgetop surrounded by steep banks with trees. He had no choice but to set up near a dirt mount in the middle.

As it began to get light, he discovered he was positioned between four different gobblers. Playing the birds after fly-down, Windley managed to lure three of them within 100 yards—two together and one solo. The pair came rushing in first, and when one strutter lifted its head 25 yards from where Windley was lying in the grass, he coolly put the bead on its neck and squeezed off a shot.


First Turkey Ever: Perfect Conditions Make for a Short Hunt

  • Thomas Allen takes good friend Todd Soxman out on his first-ever turkey hunt. After a short sit, a group of birds show up and an angry gobbler confronts a decoy with ire.


Turkeys Gobbling, Strutting and Acting Right; Some States Seeing Reduced Action
  • As some seasons continue and others close, turkey hunters are experiencing good success across the region.

By Josh Honeycutt


By all accounts, turkey hunting has been great across the South for the past week or so. Good weather and responsive turkeys have produced excellent opportunities for turkey hunters.

While most turkey seasons remain open, the Florida season is now closed. Looking back, our Sunshine State sources reported a lot of good news throughout the season. HuntQuest’s Scott Ellis and company filled several tags, including a double at the buzzer (see “Tagged Out” below).

In Alabama and Georgia, hunters report encountering turkeys that are slightly more difficult to work than they were a few days ago. Even so, turkeys are still working, albeit with less gusto, and numerous acquaintances are finding success in states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. In fact, turkey hunters in Louisiana and Mississippi are experiencing great hunts. That’s good because seasons end in those states soon. Make hay while it lasts.

In Tennessee, Brodie Swisher with Hunting Roots recently got on two birds before fly-down that gobbled almost continuously as he moved into position. Unfortunately, after they hit the ground, coyotes ran through and shut down the gobbling. Swisher called it a day and went to church.

Several days later, he and a friend bumped a couple turkeys as they eased onto a property. They circled wide around the birds and set up again. The two toms came in gobbling and strutting. Swisher tagged one of them after watching the pair gobble and strut for several minutes.

Brenda Valentine is also hunting in Tennessee. “It’s a different story every day,” she says. “I think the heat has them shutting down earlier in the day. I’m still getting lots of gobbling on the roost and lone toms are out prowling. Hens are sneaking off early.”

That’s good news for hunters, though, as they can find longbeards that aren’t henned-up. Keep moving until you locate birds, then set up accordingly.

Of course, as quickly as spring arrived, it’s starting to get away from us. Mississippi wraps up its turkey season May 1; Arkansas finishes up May 5 (in Zone 2); Louisiana has several closing days but officially ends May 5 (in Area A); Alabama goes through May 8; South Carolina ends May 10 (for two of four zones); North Carolina shuts down May 11; Texas has numerous closing days depending on location but ends May 14 for eastern turkeys; Georgia ends May 15; Oklahoma closes May 16; and Tennessee closes May 26.

Southern turkey hunting has been great the past several days. Looking at the weather forecast, the region should continue to produce good hunting conditions in the days ahead. Get out and enjoy it before it’s over.


tagged out turkeys
Ashalee Tabor and Scott Ellis doubled at the end of Florida's turkey season. (Photo courtesy of Scott Ellis)
Eleventh-Hour Double
  • Hunters: Ashalee Tabor and Scott Ellis
  • Date: Mid-April
  • Location: Florida
  • Method: Shotgun
  • Stats (Ashalee): 10 1/4-inch beard; 1 1/4-inch spurs; 19 pounds
  • Stats (Scott): 10- and 5-inch beards; 1 5/16-inch spurs; 17 pounds

HuntQuest’s Scott Ellis has been hunting in Florida right up until the season closed last Sunday.

“My girlfriend, Ashalee Tabor, finally got her first gobbler,” Ellis says. “It's been a great journey getting this amazing woman her first turkey. To add the excitement, we doubled on two Osceola hammers!”

tagged out turkey
Brodie Swisher's Tennessee tom had a 10-inch beard and weighed 21 pounds. (Photo courtesy of Brodie Swisher)
Rocky-Top Ruckus
  • Hunter: Brodie Swisher
  • Date: Mid-April
  • Location: Tennessee
  • Method: Shotgun
  • Stats: 10-inch beard; 1-inch spurs; 21 pounds

Hunting Roots’ Brodie Swisher tagged a great Tennessee bird last week. After seeing the turkey strut, gobble and work into the call, he picked up the shotgun and sent the turkey flopping. It was a great day in the turkey woods.


These Great Boots Are Made for Turkey Hunting
turkey hunter aiming shotgun
Versatile enough to handle lots of terrain, Dryshod Evalusion boots will make plenty of turkey hunters happy this spring. (Photo courtesy of Dryshod)

No matter where or how you chase gobblers this spring, there's a great pair of hunting boots that will fit your needs. Here are 10 hunting boots can keep you warm, dry and snake-proof.— Lynn Burkhead

Click to read "These Great Boots Are Made for Turkey Hunting"


Birds Abound; Hunt to Midday and Beyond
  • Anecdotal reports suggest Midwest bird numbers may be up. Scout in the evenings and be willing to hunt into the afternoon for the best odds of success.

By Brandon Butler

Weather continues to be mild and dry across the Midwest, making for easy days in the turkey woods. Reports from around the region are very positive, with Missouri on pace for a record season. Some of this has to do with expanded hours on private land. However, I have yet to speak with a hunter from anywhere in the Midwest who isn’t feeling better about the birds this year than they have in recent seasons. If you haven’t laced up your turkey boots yet, pull them out of the closet and get going because this season has begun as one to remember.

Dave Miller has a good thing going in Newton County, Indiana. The lifelong farmer has spent all 60 of his years living on the same piece of dirt. He’s watched a lot of change in the wildlife during those years—including the reintroduction of the wild turkey.

“Thirty years ago, I never dreamed we’d have turkey hunting in this area, let alone turkey hunting this good,” he says. “I’ve got my honey hole, and it produces year after year. With the number of birds that I’m seeing out in the fields this spring, I’m confident my [one-bird] season is going to be short.”

Miller reports that birds are still pitching down in larger groups. However, he’s also seeing a lot of hens on their own by mid-morning as they head to their nests.

John Bond travels from Michigan to hunt Kentucky each spring. This year, it only took a few hours to tag his first bird of the season. He says he doesn’t change things up much. Each year, he likes to hunt from the same blind in the same holler. There are steep hills on both sides, with numerous benches the birds pitch down to in the morning.

"When they're done waking up, they generally make their way down to the bottoms where I’m waiting,” Bond says. “I like to use a decoy spread with a few hens and jakes. When the gobblers see those jakes with hens, they think they’ll come in and take those hens away. It usually doesn’t work out well for them. This year was no exception.”

He reports hearing more birds this year than he has in the past few years and encourages hunters to stay in the woods as long as they can. He says that a lot of his success happens in the midday hours.

Nick Green says opening-morning birds were hard to come by in Michigan for him and his hunting partners, but persistence paid off.

“We started the morning with a half-dozen toms gobbling within earshot,” he says. “I thought it was going to be a slam dunk, but they didn’t follow their normal pattern. Instead of showing up where they had been starting the morning the last week or so, they skirted us to the south. Jakes were all that wanted to play for the first two hours of the season.”

Undaunted, Green and his two buddies decided to run and gun. The tactic paid off when the trio encountered three mature toms and called them in to 30 yards. With Green behind the camera, his two buddies attempted a “1-2-3-shoot” double. One knocked down a beautiful 3-year-old and the other whiffed. So goes turkey hunting. (See how Green fared in "Tagged Out" below.)

Growing up hunting his family’s wooded 400 acres in the hills of southern Indiana, David Ray isn’t used to turkey hunting around wide-open fields. Now that he lives near the Twin Cities in Minnesota, he’s facing a different type of habitat.

“I’ve been a big-woods hunter most of my life,” he says. “This is a different situation up here. I like the open terrain because you see so many more birds. I feel like I have an advantage because I know how to hunt woods, but the woods are a lot smaller where I’m hunting just outside of the city. The turkeys don’t have as many options to elude my setup.”

Ray says he’s glassing fields in the evening to see where birds are entering the woods when heading back to roost. He’s usually seeing them reappear in the same place the next morning.


tagged out turkey
Nick Green's first mature turkey came at the very end of a hunting trip to Michigan. Read more below. (Photo courtesy of Nick Green)
Persistence Pays Off
  • Hunters: Nick Green
  • Date: April 20
  • Location: Western Michigan
  • Method: Shotgun
  • Stats: 10 1/2-inch beard; 1-inch spurs; 24 pounds

Nick Green started the Michigan season as a cameraman, but he desperately wanted to kill his first gobbler. An accomplished sportsman and outdoor communicator, Green is a seasoned pro behind a bird dog, but longbeards have thus far eluded him.

“After more than a 100 miles driving, numerous ditches traversed and multiple run-and-gun sits that weren’t productive in the afternoon, I decided it was time to head home defeated with about an hour and a half left of daylight,” Green says. “Then, on our way back to the truck, about a half-mile away in a field, we saw birds working their way back to the roost. We were whooped and tired and not planning to hunt anymore, but we couldn’t resist. Replicating nearly the same thing we did in the morning ended with me posing behind my first mature turkey. I had the whole experience, and it all came full circle.”

Turkey hunting can be a testament to never giving up. If there is legal light left, you’re still in the game.


Action Rocking Across Region; Mid-Morning Best in Many Spots
  • Mountain birds are getting right while prairie turkeys remain in big flocks.

By Andrew McKean

It’s finally happening. Every spring turkey season around the West—except for in parts of Wyoming—is finally open, and hunters are rocking the gobs.

In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where hunting is primarily on private land, hunting has been best during mid-afternoon, when toms leave nesting hens and roam field edges.

On Colorado’s Western Slope, birds are moving out of bigger river valleys—like those of the Gunnison, Animas and Dolores—and into secondary streams and even onto mid-elevation benches. They’re not roaming far from the riparian corridors, though, and returning to roost in river-bottom cottonwoods in the evening.

And in central Idaho, birds are still roosting in big mixed-gender flocks, but about two hours after sunrise, groups of 2-year-old gobblers and jakes make for easy pickings for hunters who lightly call or simply get in the way of these gangs.

“The fly-down hunting is tough,” says Montana hunter Chris Johnsrud, who traveled to Idaho’s Clearwater County (see "Tagged Out" below). “They go where they want to go, and it seems like calling isn’t very effective when they’re all flocked up. But if you wait a couple hours, the toms are pretty callable.”

Johnsrud noted that birds are especially hitting the greening fields and south-facing slopes, where they’re picking up early shoots and buds. “The birds I shot were stuffed full of clover,” he says.

In this way, Idaho’s turkeys are a little like post-hibernation black bears. Both species are attracted by roadside green-up and any tender shoots they can grub up. It’s still a little early for turkeys to transition to insects, so hunters should hunt vegetation. In some ag-intensive areas, farmers are fed up with bothersome numbers of turkeys, and knocking on doors can lead to a surprising amount of access, says Johnsrud.

Over in the eastern part of the region, from southeast Montana down through eastern Wyoming and into Colorado’s Eastern Plains, birds are a little behind their mountain brethren. Gobblers are still in big hen flocks, and calling isn’t routinely successful until the warm mid-afternoon hours, when gobblers are cut loose by nesting hens and are actively responding to clucks and yelps.


tagged out turkey
Chris Johnsrud took down this huge gobbler in Idaho's Clearwater Region on April 17. (Photo courtesy of Chris Johnsrud)
Central Idaho Windfall
  • Hunter: Chris Johnsrud
  • Date: April 17
  • Location: Clearwater County, Idaho
  • Method: Shotgun
  • Stats: 10 1/2-inch beard; 1 1/4-inch spurs; 22 pounds

The first thing you may notice about this hero shot isn’t the handsome Idaho gobbler. It’s the hunter’s prosthetic leg. That’s right, Chris Johnsrud is an amputee, but that didn’t slow him down on a freelance, DIY trip to Idaho’s Clearwater Region.

It took him a few days to pattern birds and to figure out complicated access, but he found birds on state land. Problem was, he also encountered more mid-week hunters than he expected. So, he transitioned to private land after getting a tip that a few working farmers were complaining about nuisance birds. Johnsrud's eastern gobbler—like most Idaho birds, it has some evidence of hybridization with Rio and Merriam’s subspecies—fell to a dose of Federal No. 5 copper-plated lead shot at about 35 yards.


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