Pictures of happy hunters with their gobblers have been pouring in at the GON office, yet statewide reports on this turkey season are mixed at best. The toms have been fired up one day, and then the next day they might gobble only a few times from the roost, if at all.
With a few weeks of hunting left, here are reports from GON’s Hunt Advisor team, along with plenty of photos to get hunters inspired to give that gobbler a late-season try.
Camden County: Cale Stancil, of Kingsland, said it’s been a tough season for him down on the coast. “The gobblers have only talked on the roost on a few occasions, and it’s one to five gobbles and they’re finished. This past weekend, I set up in a new location that I haven’t hunted this year, and I soon realized that I had chosen the correct spot when the hens started clucking only 75 yards away as the sun broke the tops of the trees. I made a few clucks, and soon the hens flew down. I heard the approaching turkeys scratching the leaves and heading my way up the hardwood ridge. At 30 yards in thick cover, they turned and began to move perpendicular to my location. At 50 yards, I gave some soft yelps, and back they came. At 30 yards, three turkeys approached, and looking through the saplings, I could see the unmistakable red head of a gobbler, and soon saw he had one heck of a beard. Unfortunately, seeing the beard was also the last opportunity to shoot. The lead hen turned slightly and moved over the side of the ridge. I could never get a shot at the tom. This has been my toughest year in at least four years. Hens are everywhere, and the gobblers are with them. I have seen at least four longbeards this season, and every time they were accompanied by hens. There is normally so much gobbling from the roost in my area that you don’t know which one to go to, but not this year. Hopefully things will turn around soon.”
Carroll and Floyd counties: Splitting his turkey-hunting time between Floyd and Carroll counties, Mossy Oak Pro Staffer Scott Justice said he’s had a great season, taking 23- and 20-lb. gobblers so far. “Things are getting tougher and probably will just get worse. The gobblers are getting wise to the calling. I still see getting my third bird. I’m just going to have to work a lot harder to get him.”
Chattahoochee County: Jimmy Harper, of Hamilton, said, “We hunt a 260-acre tract of private, cutover land in the northern part of the county that has very few trees. That topography makes it somewhat easier to pattern the birds, including both their roost trees and their preferred travel routes and strut zones. We’ve had several chances to kill birds on this property, but it just hasn’t come together. We hunted the tract on April 4 and heard three different toms gobble from the roost. We set up on the closest one, gave a few soft tree yelps and a couple of clucks, and the 2-year-old bird flew down and came straight in.” Jim said he was trying to get the hunt on video, and it didn’t quite come together for his son Joe. The next day, same result for his other son Jake with the same bird. “I don’t see the gobbling decreasing much, and at least one good bird there wants to die. In fact, when we hunted this tract on April 11, we heard at least five different gobblers, and Joe would have shot a mature bird if a jealous hen hadn’t cut the gobbler off while he was coming in to Joe’s calls.”
Dooly and Wilcox counties: Tim Rutherford, of Pitts, said the action heated up quickly after a slow opening weekend. “In last month’s issue, I reported that no one I knew killed anything on opening day. Boy did that ever change the next week. Almost everyone I knew that hunted the second week killed a bird or at least had a chance to,” Tim said. “Overall the season was great for most hunters in the Dooly/Wilcox area, with a lot of big gobblers harvested. Several hunters had killed three birds midway through the fourth week and were through for the season. The next couple of weeks should be good. Since most of the hens have been bred, that ’ol tom will be strutting and looking. Remember… patience. You’ve got right up until last light of the last day, and it can happen.”
Gilmer County: Eddie Ledford, of Ellijay, said the 2009 season in the mountains has been one of the best he can ever remember. “Birds have been ahead of schedule and very vocal,” Eddie said. “At the first of the season, birds were located high up on the ridges, and as the season progressed, they have started working their way down to lower elevations. I have encountered several gobblers from the roost to 8:30 a.m. without hens early this season, and I have also bumped a few hens on nest at the start of the season. Our weather in the mountains has been unusual this year as we did not get the snow storm that much of the central part of the state received. I believe our birds in the mountains are ahead of the breeding schedule from previous years. I have hunted a total of 13 days as of April 21. I have guided a few friends this season, and I have been able to put 12 gobblers in front of the shotgun. Most hunts have not ended in a bagged bird for various reasons, but they have been very successful and enjoyable hunts with lots of action.”
Harris County: Jimmy Harper has spent some time hunting his home county. “We’ve spent a good bit of time hunting a 790-acre timber-company lease in the middle part of the county on Mulberry Creek. I’ve called in several jakes, but gobbling has been sporadic, and the mature birds have been hard to come by. A member of our club, Alan Massey, did manage to kill a 2-year-old thunder chicken on April 11 in an area of recently thinned pines. The bird came in gobbling and strutting all the way to the gun, while another club member, Robert Cook, captured it all on video. Alan said he missed a bigger bird the prior weekend when he misjudged the distance. Big strutters have a way of looking closer than they actually are, and this appearance is no doubt accentuated by the elevated heart rates of the hunters wanting to shoot them. Hunting should still be good for another couple of weeks in this area, but putting a turkey in the fryer from this tract late in the season is usually pretty tough. The birds traditionally curtail their gobbling around the first of May, and that makes locating and killing a mature bird in 700-plus acres of planted pines a difficult proposition.”
Muscogee County: Jimmy Harper said the Columbus birds aren’t gobbling… yet. “After hunting on a 190-acre private farm in the eastern part of the county with the landowner, Bud Passmore, for the first half of the season, we’ve yet to hear a gobble. However, that doesn’t mean we’ve had a bad season at all. We’ve been into birds almost every time we’ve hunted, and Bud shot a young gobbler in the rain on the afternoon of March 30. On the morning of April 3, we didn’t see a bird until almost 9:30 a.m. Bud then had two hens lead a big gobbler into the large field he was hunting, and he even got to film the gobbler breeding one of the hens. The birds stayed in front of Bud for over an hour, but the hens kept leading the gobbler away from his calling. The birds finally wandered out of his field and into my little field of chufa around 11:15 a.m. I called sparingly since it was obvious the hens wanted to keep the gobbler away from other hens. After getting almost 30 minutes of good video of the strutter and his harem for our Archery Adventures’ “Accept the Challenge” television show, I shot the bird at 11:40 in the morning. He was one of my best birds ever, being at least 4 years old with a 12-inch beard, spurs of 1 1/2 and 1 1/4 inches, and a weight of 20 1/2 pounds. Based on past history of hunting in this area, things should only get better as May rolls around. We’ve historically killed our better birds the last two weeks of the season, after the hens have started nesting all day, and we’re betting this year won’t be any different.”
Turner County: Michael Lee, of Hahira, said gobbling overall has been fair this season. “The birds are there, and we’ve had some good hunts, including one great double-bearded bird,” Michael said. “We are still seeing gobblers around, but the gobbling in general has fallen off over the past couple of weeks. I think with all of the water we have had this spring, the hens nesting has been thrown off some, and it has kept the gobblers henned up longer than normal. There have been a lot more 2-year-old birds this spring though, which has made the hunting better in general. For the rest of the season, the gobblers should get a little more vocal as the hens start sitting more. We are still targeting the feeding areas such as chufa patches and food plots that we know the birds feed in. The gobblers are hanging around these areas to catch hens feeding while they aren’t on the nest. Overall, it’s been a good spring.”
Wilkes County: It looks like hunting the season out to the end could pay off in the Piedmont. Brandon Colquitt, of Athens, said, “It looks like things are starting to heat up later in the season this year.” Brandon has killed two birds this season, and he’s after his third. “I have been hunting one bird for the last two weeks nearly every morning, and he always seems to slip by me. Gobbling has been hit or miss this year. I have some friends who are getting on birds every morning, and others who can’t buy a gobble. There are a ton of jakes in the woods this year. Everyone I talk to is calling in jakes all over the surrounding counties around me. I’ve called in seven or eight myself. Next season should be the best season in years for gobbling. The hens are really nesting now, and the boss birds that I have been watching are starting to be alone some, although still not wanting to work to a call. I think the next couple of weeks are gonna be the best of the season.”