It may not have been on fire everywhere, but for the most part, the opening weekend of turkey season got off to a great start. There were lots of reports of birds hammering, and several experienced turkey hunters reported their best opening-day ever.
“It was one awesome opening morning,” said Brandon Colquitt of Athens. Brandon and two buddies all took birds on opening morning while hunting three different tracts in three different counties of the Piedmont.
Great reports of gobbling birds also came in from the northeast mountains and extreme south Georgia. While there were also reports of gobblers still henned-up and not responding well once they hit the ground, for gobbling action and turkeys killed, the 2008 opener was hot!
Here are some reports from across the state.
Elbert County: Mike Harris of Athens didn’t turkey hunt, but while fishing Lake Russell he heard three birds gobbling their tails off in Coldwater Creek for several hours in the morning. “They must be strutting their stuff pretty heavy right now with this early spring. I noticed all the dogwoods blooming this weekend and a lot of pollen on the water,” Mike said.
Franklin County: Richard Wansley of Martin hunted with three generations of the Bell family from Duluth. With 4-year-old Conner in his lap, Richard called for Conner’s dad, Kevin, and Conner’s granddad Joe. Richard called in a longbeard with two more mature gobblers in tow. Kevin made the shot and took a 21-lb. bird with a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. Richard said hunters in the area reported hearing a good amount of gobbling from birds that didn’t seem to be henned up yet.
Oglethorpe County: John Seginak of Comer said he heard one bird gobble at 7:50 a.m. about a mile away but heard at least 12 single shots from surrounding properties from folks shooting them in green fields. “I guess that was more shooting than I’ve ever heard around here on opening day,” John said.
Walker County: The birds were gobbling their heads off opening weekend in Walker County. Jeffro Daniel of Atlanta heard three different birds gobbling from the roost opening morning, and they continued gobbling and double gobbling to calls for about 45 minutes after flydown. They were with hens, and he wasn’t able to bring one into range. Saturday night brought colder temperatures in the mid 30s, and the action slowed a little Sunday. “It was so cold I felt like I was deer hunting,” Jeffro said. There were still a few birds gobbling from the trees, but they were roosted with hens and shut up as soon as they hit the ground. One of Jeffro’s buddies pulled a pair of satellite jakes away from another rafter of birds on a nearby property.
Bibb County: Russ Campbell of Juliette didn’t hear a single gobble until 9 a.m. on opening morning in southern Bibb, and then 15 minutes later he had four gobblers strutting around his decoys. “I set up in a spot that I traditionally hunt in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon because they like to use this area as a strutting zone. I waited them out, calling occasionally until one boomed at 9 a.m. after an aggressive series with my diaphragm call,” said Russ, who picked out the biggest bird and made a 20-yard shot. The gobbler had double beards — 10 1/2 inches and 6 inches.
Hancock County: Matthew Gilbert of Monroe said the action was good opening morning, although no gobblers were killed. He heard four from the roost, and one of the gobblers and a hen pitched into a cut corn field and strutted for at least 40 minutes 75 to 100 yards away. “While he was drumming and strutting, I called minimally just trying to pique their curiosity to come check out my decoy. Three other hens found their way to the corn field, then bolted toward the lone hen, ganged up on her and began to fight. When the hens calmed down, all five birds moved across the field and disappeared into the woods. After this, the action ceased. Two other hunters on our land didn’t have any nearby action. We teamed up around 9:30 and walked around looking for a late gobble. We saw strut marks on some of the secondary roads. There was also scratching in many of the water oaks we walked through that were in creek bottoms and adjacent to food plots. The birds seem to be split up on our land, but in the next few weeks, we feel the hunting should improve,” Matthew said.
Heard County: Dustin Pate was hunting corps land at West Point Lake. “I have hunted this area hard for the last few years and had many close encounters, but something always seemed to go wrong. Saturday morning my dad and I heard one bird on the roost and couldn’t get to him due to being on the wrong side of the river,” Dustin said. “We made it to the area I knew the turkeys liked to roost and still heard nothing. Walking that far, we decided to sit it out for a while. About five minutes into doing some soft calling, a bird hammered back at about 125 yards. Over the next five minutes he got a little closer. Then a group of birds hammered at about 50 yards. My dad cutt real hard, and they were on the run. At that time I knew it was about to happen. The bird I shot was the lead bird. It was 8:05 a.m. He had a 9-inch beard, 7/8 spurs and weighed about 17 pounds.”
Jones County: Curtis Finch of Macon said they were gobbling pretty good opening morning, but they seemed to be henned up as the gobbling ending about 8 a.m. “My dad and I went back Sunday morning, and the gobbling was good again. At about 7:45 we had a gobbler working our creek bottom, so we picked up and rushed down there to set up on him. We had the bird working our way until a couple of dogs came through there barking. We didn’t hear another bird gobble,” Curtis said.
Monroe County: The Hampton family had a great hunt opening morning. Tim Hampton called for his wife Salena, while their 11-year-old daughter Conner was the videographer. “We had 10 different gobblers fired up, but they were all with hens,” Tim said. Salena, on her first turkey hunt, shot a jake when it peeled away from the flock and strutted to 20 yards. “Salena will never be the same again,” Tim said. “All of the gobblers were seen with hens but lots of gobbling opening morning. One of the best ever.”
Meanwhile, John Stanley was hunting some public land in Monroe County. “Not much to report. Sure was a beautiful day to spend outdoors with Andrew though,” said John about the adult/child hunt with his son Andrew at Rum Creek WMA. “We didn’t hear a peep at daylight, so we set up in a known feeding area for an hour or so. At 7:40 we heard a bird gobble on the ground four times over a two-minute span. He was probably 200 yards away and wouldn’t respond. I know there were gobblers in the area, but we never heard another sound and left about 9 a.m.” In another spot, John called up a jake, but it eased off without offering a shot. “As I turned to look at Andrew after the bird had walked off, he said, ‘Daddy, I can’t stop shaking!’ I was surprised at how little we heard on what seemed like a great morning for turkey hunting. Andrew has a broken foot and a bad cold so we were a little hampered but had a good time anyway,” John said.
Putnam County: Donald Jarrett hunted Cedar Creek WMA. “I took my boys, and we heard eight gobblers. The funny thing was we only heard one on the limb at daylight. After they flew down, the birds went ape, bonkers, berserk! Of course accompanying the eight gobblers that were scattered about the area were lots and lots of hens. I did manage to call one hen in from the area where a couple of gobblers were screaming from but nothing followed her. The last gobbler we heard was at 9:10 a.m. The best times are ahead of us,” Donald said.
Taylor County: Even though there were plenty of willing hens, opening morning was a good day to hunt in Taylor County. Greg Baugus said he must have had 15 different birds gobble from the roost to his hoot owl Saturday morning. “I couldn’t decide which one to hunt, so I chose the closest one,” Greg said. The bird flew down to a pair of hens but continued gobbling to Greg’s calls as it walked away. Another hunter on the same property bagged a bird with a 9-inch beard. He heard the bird and set up on a funnel where the gobbler passed with a group of hens.
Troup County: Billy Noles said it was quiet in east Troup County, but a quiet bird can be killed. Billy set up on a clover food plot. “I set up my strutting tom and hen decoys. Daylight came, but no gobbling. It was a quiet morning. I didn’t hear any turkeys at all. I was set up where the turkeys always come after they fly down. It was 7:55 a.m. and I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was a tom in full strut headed straight to my decoys. He had a 10 1/8-inch beard, 1 1/16-inch and 1-inch spurs and weighed 19 pounds. The tom never gobbled, and he was alone.”
Twiggs County: Jeremy Robinson of Byron said he had his best hunt ever opening morning with his dad. “Yesterday evening I roosted three birds on the edge of this field I had planned to hunt this morning. I did a hoot owl when we were about 200 yards away from the birds to make sure they were in the same place I had roosted them. One gobbled, so we headed toward the edge of the field. When we got to the field, an owl started hooting and the birds would not stop gobbling. I set B-mobile and a hen about 25 yards off the edge of the field, and we sat down just inside the woodline. As the sky started turning grey we counted six different birds gobbling. I did a couple of tree yelps, and the two birds that were closest to us just couldn’t stand it. They both pitched down into the field 85 yards away and started strutting. I yelped, they gobbled and made a b-line straight to B-mobile. They would not stop beating him up! Finally after about five minutes they both turned toward us and gave us the shots we needed. It was truly a day I will always cherish and never forget,” Jeremy said.
Washington County: David Lewis of Washington County said it was slow opening weekend. “We hunted outside of Harrison Saturday morning. I thought the weather was perfect — about 47 degrees, wind was about 5 mph. One problem, the turkeys didn’t think so. We did not hear a bird on the land we were hunting, not even a hen. Me and my son went to some land outside of Tennille and started over at 10:15 a.m. We heard a hen yelp a few times but did not hear a gobble. At 10:45 we got a bird to answer to a call, but he put the sneak on us.”
Camden County: Cale Stancil of Kingsland reported some gobbling on the roost, but after fly down he only heard two single gobbles, the last just after 9 a.m. “I didn’t see a tom or any hens, and that’s pretty usual since the long, straight dirt roads here usually give way to at least one sighting. Mike Kilpatrick hunted a couple miles from me and had three gobblers come close to him. The afternoon was hot, the mosquitoes were bad, and no p.m. gobbling was heard. ThermaCELL are a must right now in extreme southeast Georgia!” Cale said. Bo Russell reports, “The Camden County turkeys my son Jamie and I pursued were cooperative. We had one boss gobbler that we now call Lucky Tom that was doing all the talking. We got a good look at him as he dodged 1 1/4 ounces of No. 6s and flew off into the sunrise. We found many tracks while scouting, but Lucky Tom was the only bird we heard gobble.”
Dooly County: “Saturday was a perfect day for turkey hunting in Dooly, Wilcox and Telfair, said Tim Rutherford. “My co-worker Brannan Easom was in Wilcox, I was in Dooly and my brother Stan was hunting in Telfair. Brannan had birds gobbling at daylight, but as soon as they hit the ground they shut up. Stan had five birds gobbling and saw one jake but passed, hoping for a mature bird.” That afternoon Brannan went to Dooly with his brother Alex and shot a 2-year-old bird that gobbled good. “Other hunters reported seeing most of the toms with hens and hard to work,” Tim said.
Early County: “We are saving our turkeys on our Georgia lease for our annual Country Goes Huntin’ event,” said Sam Klement of Spectrum Outdoors. “I went over there yesterday a.m. for a scouting trip and heard multiple birds gobbling hard. While driving around, I saw a couple of stutters as well as lots of strut sign. Based on what I have seen and heard from the turkeys here in the Wiregrass area this past week, the turkeys are still flocked up. It is about two weeks away from getting great! The Georgia birds are really starting to show up at the freshly disked fields,” Sam said.
Jeff Davis County: Keith Byers of Hazelhurst killed a gobbler on Saturday and another one Monday. “I haven’t heard or seen the first hen,” said Keith. “What I may have found was satellite gobblers that don’t have their own harems.” His opening-day gobblers hung up briefly then came at a dead run. The Monday bird flew more than 250 yards to land behind Keith, but in range.
Treutlen County: Delton Lord of Soperton heard lots gobbling from the roost on opening morning. They were “double and sometimes triple gobbling at anything thrown at them, but they shut up as soon as their feet hit the ground,” Delton said. “In all, we heard five different birds and made visual contact with a longbeard that seemed uninterested in what we had to offer. Surrounding reports were pretty much the same — lots of gobbling from the roost, but shutting up once on the ground.”
Tim Knight said his Treutlen County land was quieter. “The turkeys are bad bunched up here. I saw a big flock of turkeys in a field with at least six strutters, a bunch of jakes and at least 20 hens.” Monday morning Tim got his 49th gobbler with a bow. “The bird I killed this morning doesn’t have a bit of dirt on his wings — they haven’t touched the ground yet,” said Tim.
Turner County: Michael Lee of Hahira, host of “Southern Backwoods Adventures TV,” said the birds gobbled really well on the roost. “Saturday morning we worked four gobblers into about 100 yards, and they were hot. The bad part is that they had a hen that they were courting. The birds have been tearing up our chufa patches, and they are still bunched up tight. My dad, Mike Lee, headed back out after Easter dinner to one of our chufa patches. He sat down a few yards off of the edge and called one series of clucks and yelps. Three gobblers answered. Within 10 minutes he had one of the longbeards down,” Michael said.
Worth County: Mark Cox of Tifton said opening weekend was full of highs and lows. “Some birds were hung up with hens, but others were on the hunt for a willing hen,” Mark said. On Sunday afternoon Mark got a turkey gobbling. “He strutted around for what seemed like forever, but finally he got a good look at the decoys and was on his way.” Mark’s bird had 1 1/2-inch spurs, an 11 1/2-inch beard and weighed 22 pounds. “It will definitely be one of the top moments in the woods in my hunting career. Overall this weekend was full of gobbling and strutting,” Mark said.
Editor’s Note: GON was flooded with gobbler photos from opening weekend. Look for lots more turkey photos in the next issue.