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Regional Strut Update: Turkey Season is Down to the Wire

If you have any tricks left up your sleeve, now's the time to play all your cards.

Regional Strut Update: Turkey Season is Down to the Wire
It won't be easy this late in the game, but there are still states in the East where you can fill a turkey tag. (Shutterstock image)

This is the ninth and final installment of the Regional Strut Update, our weekly report on turkey activity and hunter success (see last week's report). For out last update, we've focused on the East, the region with the most turkey seasons that remain open.

EAST REPORT

Seasons Winding Down; Toms are Killable if You Can Find Them
  • As the last of the region's seasons come to a close, any remaining gobblers should work well.

The 2024 turkey season is already in the books for nearly half of the East region. As of this posting, hunters have hung up their guns in Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and Rhode Island, with Maryland ending today and New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts all wrapping this weekend. Based on the reports of the past several weeks, along with dispatches from those looking to fill tags in the days ahead, it’s been a real mixed bag.

In those states where the season is still open, hunting pressure has likely put toms in an ultra-caution mode. If you can get one to gobble now, odds are in your favor that you can kill him.

In Maine, outfitter John LeMarca reports that the birds that are alone are on fire. Hunters are seeing more success earlier in the morning than they have had when the toms were more henned up.

“I think we’re in for a killing week here in Maine for sure,” he says.

Pressure has been the story in Connecticut, where hunters, including Trevor Berwick, report gobbling toms are becoming harder to find. However, when one is located, the hunt generally ends quickly in the hunter’s favor. The same is true in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Don’t expect to hear all the birds that you were hearing just a couple weeks ago. Some are dead, of course, while others are so pressured they are gobbling sparingly. The breeding cycle is running its course and some birds are simply becoming less interested. But when you do find one gobbling, you can often get on him and seal the deal.

One thing David Sichik has observed hunting in both Vermont and New Jersey is that birds are coming in silently, so the run-and-gun tactics used earlier in the season may only result in bumped birds now. If you have a spot where a tom was hanging out regularly but you’re not hearing him anymore, and you’re pretty sure another hunter hasn’t shot him, set up a blind in good cover, stake out some decoys, call sparingly and hang tight. The decoys will serve as a visual beacon for lonely toms on the prowl. Most hunters I’ve talked to are still having their best success with a tom decoy, or at least a jake, in the mix.

A word on decoys: In all my years of hunting, for every successful hunt when a gobbler came in to check out my decoys, I’ve had just as many hunts when the decoys put the bird on alert and kept him at a distance. While LeMarca and Sichik are both enjoying solid success with strutter decoys in the mix, hunter Tiffany Bezio says it’s been a weird season. Whereas in the past she’s enjoyed great success using decoys, this year the birds seem more spooked by them. The New York hunter is still looking to fill her first tag despite being into birds nearly every morning.

“I’ve had a chance to kill plenty of jakes, but getting adults to commit, even when alone, hasn’t panned out for me,” she says. She has until May 31 in the Empire State, and this final week coming up should be optimal.

TAGGED OUT

rsu-week9-steve-martic1
Steve Martic had a turkey season to remember. First, he took this tom in New Brunswick’s first spring season that allowed nonresidents to participate.
TWO COUNTRIES FOR OLD TOMS
  • Hunter: Steve Martic
  • Date: May 14, 17 and 19
  • Location: New Brunswick, Connecticut, Rhode Island
  • Method: Shotgun
rsu-week9-steve-martic2
Martic, after his success north of the border, returned home to Connecticut and took this huge gobbler (left) just days later. He finished his spring to remember in Rhode Island (right) on the final day of the season.

Steve Martic has enjoyed a whirlwind couple of weeks, making the most of nearby state—and international—borders to maximize his bird hunting opportunities. Martic was one of 50 nonresident hunters who were fortunate enough to draw a tag to hunt New Brunswick’s first spring season that allowed nonresidents to participate. He scored on May 14, his first morning out. He then returned home to Connecticut and took a huge gobbler just days later (May 17) before jumping across the state line to fill his tag on another tom in Rhode Island on the last day of the Ocean State season (May 19). While some hunters may be wishing they had a better season, Martic won’t be among that crowd.

TAGGED OUT

rsu-week9-andre-oulette
Maine hunter Andre Oulette and outfitter John LeMarca (standing) pose with a tom taken on May 22.
TEXTBOOK GOBBLER
  • Hunter: Andre Oulette
  • Date: May 22
  • Location: Maine
  • Method: Shotgun
  • Stats: 8 1/2-inch beard; 3/4-inch spurs; 19 pounds

Maine hunter Andre Oulette (kneeling) poses with his trophy tom he took while hunting with outfitter John LeMarca (standing) in the first hours of daylight on May 22. The 2-year-old tom, which had an 8 1/2-inch beard and 3/4-inch spurs and tipped the scales at 19 pounds, crested a hill in a field 300 yards away, heard their calls, spotted their gobbler decoy and worked his way into range of Oulette’s .410 shotgun and TSS loads. LeMarca reports the tom “dropped in its tracks.”

Recommended


“It’s a beautiful time of year, where the hens are less interested in the toms and a lot of hunters have also given up because they got tired of dealing with toms that were henned up,” says LaMarca. “The upshot is we now have dumber turkeys to hunt and less hunters to contend with—a wonderful combo.”

GOBBLER GEAR

Fiocchi Golden Turkey TSS Shotshells
shotgun shell and turkey feet
Fiocchi Golden Turkey TSS loads drop gobblers with authority.
  • Expect dense patterns that hit hard from these turkey-hunting loads. — Adam Heggenstaller

Click to read "Field Tested: Fiocchi Golden Turkey TSS Shotshells"




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