The “Birds & Bees” Turkey Lesson…
The monster tom gobbled at the top of his lungs, the roar echoed across the rolling hills as I crawled into shotgun range. I tried to call him closer in the fog of early morning but he was henned up to the max, totally in a breeding trance and directing his full attention toward the itsy hen by his side.
Through the wavering grass of mid-morning I could see his 11-inch long beard dragging on the ground as he tiptoed in a tight circle around the receptive hen. I slipped through the cover like a lizard sneaking on grasshoppers, slinking slowly like a snake in the weeds, keeping my head down. The big tom was going nowhere; he was totally in a love sick trance, a mating dance, as I slowly crawled directly at the breeding pair.
When I reached where the grass ended at the open field the big boy was about 25 yards away. I could move no closer and stayed hidden until the turkey went full fan, turned his butt toward me. That’s when I sat up, shouldered the Benelli 12 ga. and flipped the safety off. For a few minutes I had no target because the pair was totally blocked from view by the trophy tom’s spread wide fan. Eventually the hen wiggled to the side, saw me and raised her head. I could feel my heart pounding and blood rushing through my fingertips as the big boy immediately responded by dropping his fan, extending his neck and standing on his tip toes to survey the strange green camo blob a stone’s throw away. He was broadside with neck fully stretched for the sky when I placed the TRUGLO fiber optic bead on his neck and touched the trigger.
Soon I rushed to his side and admired the 23 lb. monster gobbler with 11-inch beard and super long spurs. I sat over the kill, enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment. The warm sun caressing my face, the sweet smell of a Michigan spring day filled my senses, as I admired the beautiful bird. I thought about the thrill of the hunt. How I spotted the huge gobbler, got permission to hunt. Set up long before daybreak and eventually abandoned my decoys and turkey vest and stalked the prize. It took me three hours of knee crawling to eventually get close. Man, what a thrill packed hunt! But my success hinged on identifying a breeding pair and utilizing alternative hunting tactics to score.
What about you, do you understand a wild turkey’s love making ritual? More importantly, do you have an alternate hunting strategy if traditional calling tactics go sour? If not, listen up.
The courtship of wild turkeys is seldom seen in the wild and little is known about this mating ritual that has a huge impact on hunting and hunting success. Most hunters know that there are times when gobblers will come running to almost any hen sound and sometimes they seem to ignore calls. The same is true for decoys. At times toms get a glimpse of a decoy and charge directly into easy gun range. Heck, I’ve had them sprint almost ½ mile to challenge my breeding hen and full fan attending gobbler decoy. But I’ve also seen them take a peek at my decoy spread, turn and disappear into the woods.
We all know that gobblers go crazy during the breeding season. They become active, spend endless hours looking for mates, gobbling, looking for hens. But how often do we actually see the breeding ritual?
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