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Gobbling activity fluctuates throughout hunting season
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- With spring comes turkey season and the countless hours spent listening for that chill-inducing gobble.
The adult male turkey, called a tom or gobbler, produces these gobbles in an attempt to attract as many hens as possible with the intent of breeding. In many instances, a tom will gobble several times first thing in the morning before leaving his roost. This performance is to get an early start on convincing hens to visit him. Juvenile male turkeys, known as jakes, will also vocalize like this, but, in many instances, they are just spectators during their first year.
Although any time spent in the outdoors is a good time, there are periods when the chances of hearing these gobbles are higher than others. Gobbling activity increases significantly during breeding season. The timing of breeding season is determined largely by the number of daylight hours during a 24-hour period, called photoperiod. Although weather can potentially affect the start of breeding season by a few days or maybe a week, photoperiod is considered to be the driving factor.
Spring turkey season occurs during the breeding season in Mississippi. Factors influencing gobbling activity during this time can include the breakup of winter flocks, the beginning of hen nesting, and the re-nesting of hens that lost their first or second clutches.
Weather conditions on a given day or during a period of time can have a big influence on wild turkey activity. However, there are patterns of gobbling activity from year to year that you can follow to better your chances of hearing and/or harvesting one of these magnificent birds when planning a hunt.
According to the 2015 Mississippi Wild Turkey report, hunters reported hearing more gobbles during week five of the 2014 season. This timing has been the trend in five out of the last nine hunting seasons. Hunters have reported week four as having the second most gobbles heard for four out of the last nine seasons. They reported week three as having the third most gobbles heard for five out of the last nine seasons. For the 2016 turkey season, week one begins March 15, and week seven, the final week, ends May 1.
This data was collected via individual hunter observations and reported as the number of gobbles heard per 10 hours of hunting. The numbers were then averaged for each week.
Hunter observations such as these help biologists develop appropriate seasons and monitor population changes to ensure wild turkeys will be around and healthy for many years to come. If you are interested in participating in this year’s turkey report, go to http://www.mdwfp.com and fill out a spring gobbler hunter survey application.
We as turkey hunters and turkey enthusiasts wish we could pursue or hear these birds every day of the season. But this wish rarely works out for most of us. Even though no one can predict what 2016 will bring, the trends observed for the last nine seasons may help us plan our trips to the woods for times when gobblers are most active. Good luck during your 2016 turkey season.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.