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Regional Strut Update: Turkey Activity Heating Up With Warmer Temps

Gobblers are sounding off in many states. Our expert advice gets you ready for a successful hunt.

Regional Strut Update: Turkey Activity Heating Up With Warmer Temps

Warmer weather heats up the turkey hunting in the southeastern U.S. (Photo by Josh Honeycutt)

Welcome to Week 2 of the Game & Fish Regional Strut Update, our exclusive 10-week report of gobbler activity from every region of the country. Through the end of May, our turkey experts will help keep you in the know about activity and successes, tips and tactics, and great gear and how to use it. This week's report includes:

  • In the South, gobbling activity has heated up in states with open seasons as warmer temperatures have arrived, according to contributor Josh Honeycutt. Most of the region's states will be fully involved in turkey hunting by next weekend.
  • In the Midwest, as many states prepare for openers next week, cold weather has muted gobbling in the western portion of the region, according to contributor Brandon Butler. In the southern reaches, however, birds are sounding off.
  • In the West and East, with season openers still weeks away in many states, we take a look at turkey populations. See below for a look at population and past harvest numbers.

SOUTH REPORT

Temps and Gobbling Activity Both Increasing

  • Improving weather has helped kick turkeys into gear.

As you might recall, last week’s Southern turkey activity, or lack thereof, was heavily impacted by chilly temperatures. This wintry weather put a slight damper on the action, with hunters having to work hard for their birds.

Like last week, hunters are still chasing birds in Florida, Mississippi and Texas. Phillip Culpepper, host of "Hunt Club" and Realtree's "Spring Thunder," reports he is in the thick of things in the Magnolia State, but had a rough time in the Sunshine State. However, even with the Florida birds being tight-lipped, he was able to close the deal.

"I’m up in Mississippi now, having just gotten back from my hunt in Florida," says Culpepper. "While things were tough there, we were able to manufacture a few birds even though they were henned-up and pretty much unresponsive. Gobbles were rare, making it a tough hunt."

Culpepper reports that the weather in Mississippi has been less than optimal, but is promises to improve over the next few days.

"The weather here in Mississippi hasn't been good; it's been slow in the field with few gobbles," he says. "However, there's hope things will improve as we have more sunshine forecasted for the coming week."

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

In Alabama, hunters are beginning their season in a few select zones. A quick reminder for Alabama hunters: Keep in mind that you cannot use decoys until specific dates in various zones, so be sure to check the regs for your hunt area before setting out your dekes.

On private land in South Carolina's Game Zones 3 and 4, the season kicked off March 22; on private land in Game Zones 1 and 2, as well as on WMAs across the state, the season starts April 1.

For those hunting in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas, the next 10 days look promising. Warmer weather is on tap, with rains subsiding. These improving conditions promise increased gobbling, more strutting and generally more responsiveness to calling.




Other states' seasons are getting ready to open, too, including Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Louisiana opens April 1, while Georgia's season opens on April 1 on private land and April 8 on public lands.

April 1 to 7 marks the youth season in North Carolina, with April 8 kicking off the regular season. In Tennessee, youth hunters will have their season April 8 and 9, with the regular season beginning April 15. It's a similar story in Oklahoma, with an April 8 and 9 youth hunt and an April 16 kickoff for the statewide regular season. In Arkansas, youth hunters will go afield April 8 and 9, with the statewide regular season opening April 17.

Overall, we're still in the very early stages of turkey season. The bulk of hunters haven’t started yet, but they soon will. As hunters continue to gear up, and more seasons open, continue checking back for detailed reports from the turkey woods. — Josh Honeycutt

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MIDWEST REPORT

Cold Slows Plains Birds; Scout Now for Fired-Up Southern Toms

  • As gobbling is muted in the western part of the region, birds are sounding off farther south.

When Nebraska's archery season opened on March 25, spring turkey hunting in the Midwest was officially underway. The Cornhusker State barely gets a jump on Kansas, where the archery season opens April 3. Zones in Illinois and Iowa soon follow, with both offering opportunities to hunt the first week of April.

A ROUGH START

Those who braved the first few days of Nebraska's early opener deserve a tip of the cap—they endured some horrible conditions. Turkey hunting in the snow isn't generally a routine affair. I suppose being able to follow gobbler tracks is an advantage, but when temperatures are below freezing and the wind is whipping so hard it blows tears out of your eyes, it's tough to close the deal.

Ryan Martin, a turkey fanatic from Columbia, Mo., is one of those hunters who couldn’t wait to get after gobblers this year and traveled to the Cornhusker State to hunt the archery opener. He reported birds were still in their winter flocks and very little gobbling was heard once the turkeys were on the ground—probably because their voice boxes were frozen.

He says the toms were strutting and displaying behavior relevant to the pursuit of hens, but they were quiet and reluctant to come to calls. With warmer temperatures and calmer conditions this week, those Nebraska birds should be more willing to answer.

WAITING FOR THE BELL

It's ironic that seasons are opening out on the Plains, where snow, ice and wind are locking birds down, while fired-up birds can't be hunted for a couple more weeks in the southernmost expanses of the Midwest region.

Things in Kentucky, for instance, are quite a bit different than they are in Nebraska. In the Bluegrass State, renowned outdoor industry photographer Bill Konway is suffering through the pain of having to watch gobblers dance in the field outside his window while waiting for the regular season to kick off April 15.

Konway says down in his holler, the birds are amped up and ready to go. His yard birds are gobbling so hard they rattle the windows some mornings. This weekend, April 1 and 2, the kids in Kentucky should be in for an excellent youth hunt.

GET SCOUTING

If you're in a state with an opening day still a couple of weeks away, what you can do right now is scout. Adequate scouting may be the most important factor when chasing turkeys. These birds don't typically wander far.

If you can get out a few mornings before work to go listen for gobblers, you're going to be miles ahead come opening day. Take a drive during your lunch hour to glass fields. If a bird is strutting out there prior to the season opening, you can bet he won't be too far off come opening morning.

As the seasons begin to open in more states across the Midwest, remember that it's good to be aggressive early. On opening morning, move tight to roost trees. Call to the gobblers like they haven't had loving in 10 months.

As the seasons progress, birds become more wary and better educated. But even the old boss gobblers have forgotten by now that some of those sweet hen sounds come from predators looking to lay the hammer down on them. As turkey hunting legend Ray Eye likes to say, "calling is everything."— Brandon Butler

Read more turkey articles in the Game & Fish Regional Strut Update

Game & Fish Best Hunting Times

male wild turkey
Our free interactive solunar calendar offers the best turkey hunting times based on your exact location. Click below to access the calendar. (Shutterstock image)

Search for the Best Hunting Times in Your Zip Code

GOBBLER GEAR

Two New Products to Help You Get Your Bird

Spypoint FLEX and Fiocchi Golden Turkey TSS
Spypoint FLEX and Fiocchi Golden Turkey TSS

Utilizing the density of tungsten in No. 7 and 9 shot to provide high pellet counts and hard-hitting performance, Fiocchi Golden Turkey TSS ($50; fiocchiusa.com) will ground the toughest of birds. The pellets' density (18 grams per cubic centimeter) results in deep penetration at long ranges. The 3-inch shells are available in 12, 20 and 28 gauges, as well as .410 bore, producing velocities of 1,100 to 1,225 fps. If you’re looking for a workhorse of a game camera that will provide dependable service, check out the new Spypoint FLEX ($109.99; spypoint.com). The FLEX is incredibly easy to set up and use. It automatically connects to the best cellular network, eliminating one of the traditional pitfalls of older cellular cameras. It transmits both videos and still photos.— Colin Moore

TERRIFIC TOMS

We're Looking for Your Longbeards

Matt Rowin Florida turkey
Send us your best photos from your spring turkey hunt. (Photo courtesy of Matt Rowin)

Florida hunter Matt Rowin shared this photo of his early success on the Game & Fish Facebook page. Send us your best photos for a chance to be featured in this report. Use the hashtag #gafstrutreport, or message us directly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

EAST & WEST

State-By-State Gobbler Info

With most openers in the East and West still weeks away (see last week's report for those dates), let's look at these states' current turkey populations, and average annual harvest numbers, courtesy of the National Wild Turkey Federation. In-depth field reports for the East and West will begin with next week’s Regional Strut Update.

East

CONNECTICUT
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 30,000-35,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 1,250
DELAWARE
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 6,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 550
MAINE
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 70,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 5,750
MARYLAND
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 40,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 4,000
MASSACHUSETTS
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 35,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 3,000
NEW HAMPSHIRE
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 45,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 5,000
NEW JERSEY
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 20,000-25,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 2,750
NEW YORK
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 170,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 17,000
PENNSYLVANIA
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: Not reported
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: Not reported
RHODE ISLAND
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 4,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 250
VERMONT
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 45,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 5,500
VIRGINIA
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 180,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 20,000
WEST VIRGINIA
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 100,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 10,000

West

ARIZONA
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 20,000-22,250
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 1,000
CALIFORNIA
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 300,000-400,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 20,000
COLORADO
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 30,000-35,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 5,000
IDAHO
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 25,000-55,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: Not reported
MONTANA
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 120,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 3,000
NEVADA
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 1,600-2,400
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 65
NEW MEXICO
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 20,000-30,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 2,500
OREGON
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 45,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: Not reported
UTAH
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: 25,000-35,000
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 2,000
WASHINGTON
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: Not reported
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 5,000
WYOMING
  • WILD TURKEY POPULATION: Not reported
  • AVERAGE ANNUAL HARVEST: 2,500

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