I’ve been driving/riding across South Dakota, Nebraska, and Missouri since before daylight. Adam and I have probably seen 50 gobblers strutting during this drive. We’ve crossed 100’s of miles in latitude, driven through row crop, pasture, national forest, and river bottom habitat types. We’ve seen fallow fields, planted fields, and farmers planting fields. The one constant has been that temperatures are much warmer than normal for this time of year and it appears that turkeys are about a month ahead of their normal mating season schedule.
Last weekend was youth season in Missouri. I took both Raleigh and Rae hunting with high expectations of a double harvest during the weekend. During the past few years, adult gobblers have readily responded to my calling and a jake decoy. Those hunts resulted with turkey in the deep fryer after Raleigh and Rae tagged their toms. Many state agencies schedule youth season early during the turkey mating season as during this time gobblers usually readily respond since most hens are not receptive to toms at this time.
That scenario wasn’t the case last weekend. Both mornings my daughters and I heard toms gobbling on the roost, and both mornings toms ended up responding to my calls. However, on both mornings the toms took a very long time to respond. They cautiously approached our decoys, but remained out of range, took a look and veered off. Their behavior was very odd for this time of year – but not the conditions…
The temperatures and development of vegetation are both approximately a month ahead of normal. Fellow hunters and biologists have recently shared with me they’ve seen turkey poults already this year in multiple states. It’s very early to see or hear reports of turkey poults. Heck, regular turkey season hasn’t opened yet in Missouri!
Missouri University reports that the winter of 2011-12 was the fifth warmest winter since they’ve been keeping records. No doubt the timing of mating, development of vegetation, etc., will be different than normal. The good news is that 2011-12 was only the fifth warmest winter on record. There have been warmer winters, many years ago, and turkeys, deer, and vegetation survived well.
Even with these conditions, I look forward to opening day. I’ll be evaluating the gobblers’ behavior and adjusting my hunting strategies accordingly. That’s a great thing about hunting – every year is different and every day in the woods offers an opportunity to learn and improve our hunting skills.
I’ll share what I learn and hope you join the GrowingDeer.tv Team and share back with us so we can all learn together.
Growing Deer (and learning) together,