“Henned-Up” Toms Tend To Be Tight-Lipped…
I dearly love all the phases and various timeframes of the spring wild turkey hunting season in Michigan. The “early season” that starts in mid-April can be one of the most unpredictable in regards to weather, but it can also offer the best response from gobblers looking for a date during a time the turkey hens aren’t quite interested yet and at best, are playing very hard to get. The gobblers also tend to be more vocal as well.
This certainly doesn’t mean the early season is a slam-dunk affair for hunters, because wild turkey gobblers are very wary and suspicious by nature (something that develops naturally from avoiding being eaten by other critters from chickhood on up) and are equipped with some great survival skills such as sharp eyesight (including acute color perception), excellent hearing and the ability to run with near roadrunner speed. Then top that all off with the ability to flush and fly away from danger like an overgrown ruffed grouse. I’ve heard it said that if wild turkeys could smell (which they can’t), that they would be next to impossible to hunt with any success, to which I wholly agree.
The early season may also feature frosty mornings and very few mosquitoes and black flies, which to me is a bonus (however I remember one early season just a few years ago that featured a spring blizzard and heavy snows and winds that threw a monkey-wrench into turkey hunting). Hunting at dawn can also pay dividends with gobblers responding in an often very vocal manner to proper calling techniques.
Here in Michigan, the “late season” which begins in early May usually finds hen turkeys in the dating mood and gobblers are quite busy at doing their best in courting, which usually starts right from the time their feet hit the ground after flying down from the roosting tree at the first light of dawn. This is when gobblers are referred to as being “henned-up”. Gobblers also may be quite vocal right at dawn, but tend to be tight-lipped after that because with one or more available hens near them, they could care less about traveling to a hen that should otherwise be seeking him out instead. Gobblers can be a bit snooty that way.
I can remember when you could only hunt Michigan spring gobblers in the morning, with the afternoon being a forbidden time period according to the rules. I knew afternoon would be a key time period towards success, especially when gobblers were henned-up, and I was elated when turkey hunters could finally spend a full day afield (which came about due to the successful increase in wild turkey numbers) for handling a highly changing atmosphere that requires diversity in hunting techniques in regards to ongoing wild turkey attitudes brought on by the unpredictability of weather and the breeding/nesting period.
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