The 7 Greatest Days of the 2023 Turkey Season
The calendar says that our spring turkey opener right here within the Higher Midwest is a month away, however with two ft of snow on the bottom, it appears as distant as different facet of the moon. However that received’t hold me from daydreaming, and it doesn’t matter what the climate, it’s time to start out planning for the season—prepping gear, training my calling, and, most essential, planning when to hunt. Assuming you’re doing the identical, and to make the opener appear a little bit nearer in my very own head, I made a decision to get on the cellphone with a number of the greatest turkey hunters I do know to speak concerning the season forward. And my essential query to them was “If you happen to needed to choose a single day to chase a gobbler in your space, what would it not be?”
Invariably there was a protracted pause, and I knew precisely why: Every of those guys are adequate tag a gobbler any time they head to the timber with a gun and calls. However asking them to select a selected date is sort of a trick, because it takes the main target off the talent of the hunter and places it on the chook in query. So I clarified: When are turkeys in your space are behaving in such a manner that your odds success in a one-day hunt soar, or when searching them is solely probably the most enjoyable. Their solutions, beneath, comprise F&S’s 2023 Greatest Days of the Strut—seven dates when, if the season is open in your space, you should be within the turkey woods.
Greatest Day of the Strut No. 1: April 2
Though turkey skilled Mark Drury of Drury Outdoor is from the Midwest, he’s been searching Texas each spring for the final 30-plus years. “The season opens on April 1 within the space we hunt, and I all the time wish to be there about that point,” he informed F&S. “Whereas breeding has undoubtedly began, you don’t discover as many henned-up toms as you’ll in one other week or two. The important thing, for my part, is to give attention to gobblers once they’re extra susceptible throughout that first week.”
The place they’re susceptible is essential, too, Drury says, and on this case, it’s nicely off roost websites. Whereas all turkeys are flock-oriented, he says Rios are significantly vulnerable to that conduct. “It’s even exaggerated in Texas due to the dearth of roosting timber,” he mentioned. “Birds will pile into accessible timber, and a morning roost hunt might be chaotic and blow up in a rush. We’ve discovered that concentrating on gobblers from mid-morning to early afternoon brings us probably the most success, significantly on this time-frame. There’s one other good window within the late afternoon and early night, as birds begin step by step heading again towards roosting areas. However that noon hunt is hard to beat throughout these first few days after the opener.”
Greatest Day of the Strut No. 2: April 8
Savvy whitetail hunters know that the early season—when bucks are nonetheless appearing like regular deer earlier than the breeding craze kicks in—might be among the best instances to kill a monster. Georgia skilled Terry Rohm, a professional staffer with The Grind Outdoor, takes that very same method with turkeys. “When our public-land season opens on April 8, I’ve normally received a number of scouting miles on already,” he mentioned. The information and skilled caller (Rohm received NWTF’s first two Grand Nationwide calling championships) could make turkey speak with the very best of them, however he’s additionally a strict adherent of the previous maxim that it’s simpler to name a turkey to a spot he already desires to be. And he does that by boots-on-the-ground work.
Given the searching stress that public-land toms get, and with Georgia chook numbers typically down, Rohm is aware of that specializing in prime habitat is vital to success. “Loads of the dominant birds shall be henned up on the opener—and customarily this time of 12 months within the South—however there needs to be loads of 2- and 3-year-olds able to play the sport,” he mentioned. “A few of these birds will nonetheless be hanging collectively, both in or close to the very best habitat. I search for that first inexperienced vegetation of the season, water sources, like creeks, and terrain that funnels chook motion. It’s sort of like deer searching; in the event you can work out the place a buck’s consuming and sleeping, you’ll be able to kill him.”
Greatest Day of the Strut No. 3: April 17
Kentucky skilled Tim Herald of Worldwide Trophy Adventures additionally leans towards the start the season, however not as a result of it’s the simplest time to hunt turkeys. As a substitute, he likes the problem and the satisfaction that comes with success throughout this time-frame. “I really like searching our opener and sometimes accomplish that with a buddy or two,” he mentioned. “However our toms are virtually all the time henned up fairly badly, so I had to determine one thing to get round that.”
Herald discovered the reply in not making an attempt to work birds proper off the roost. “Normally gobblers are both roosted proper with hens, or not far-off,” he mentioned. “Typically you will get tight sufficient to name in a tom, however a number of instances that roost hunt blows up in a rush and also you’re scrambling to give you Plan B. My success fee soared after I laid off the roost hunt and simply began organising the place I knew native birds have been going to assemble proper after fly-down. Turkeys on this a part of the nation are nonetheless fairly flock-oriented in the midst of April, and as soon as we began specializing in these meeting spots—creek bottoms, discipline edges, ridge tops—our success charges soared. It could possibly take some remark and scouting time to seek out them, however when you do, you’re in for an excellent hunt.”
Greatest Day of the Strut #4: April 30
Searching stress’s impact on the turkey breeding cycle—and hunter success—is one thing few gobbler chasers talk about, however it’s every thing to Steve Sherk. The turkey fanatic and whitetail information hunts the big-woods habitat of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains, which is just about all public floor and open to any hunter in his gobbler-crazy state. “We get a number of stress right here, and truthfully, after the primary 5 – 6 days of the season, it actually appears to get to the birds,” he mentioned. “Any tom that was residing near the street is both useless by then or has relocated to a spot much less accessible to hunters. So I wish to get one for me or a hunter early, earlier than the stress will get to them.”
Not one to be intimidated by huge nation, Sherk hikes deep into the timber to depart different hunters behind. However he additionally enjoys getting the primary crack at birds he might need listened to for weeks earlier than the opener. He additionally believes that the once-predictable breeding cycle of turkeys has been disrupted by local weather change. “We merely don’t have the winters we used to have,” he mentioned. “Breeding sometimes begins lengthy earlier than the season opener and is sooner than it’s ever been. So I focus extra on getting on a tom that’s both residing off the grid a bit, or is being ignored by different hunters.” That boils right down to scouting exhausting sufficient earlier than the season that you just’ve received quite a few birds pegged. If you happen to’ve accomplished that, these first few days of the season might be on fireplace.
Greatest Day of the Strut No. 5: Might 2
Garry Greenwalt may have rather a lot worse causes for selecting Might 2nd for his favourite day to kill an enormous western gobbler. “It’s my birthday!” he laughs. “However critically, I’ve had a ton of success on that day, and I’m satisfied it’s not only a birthday reward.” Greenwalt, who guides and hunts the mountains of Washington and Idaho and has killed 45 gobblers with a bow, says issues simply line up completely firstly of Might for the Rios and Merriams he chases. “We open round April 15, and a number of toms are nonetheless henned up then. However by early Might, a few of these ladies are nesting and with a little bit work I can get on to a tom able to play.”
Spring climate might be fickle within the mountains, and Greenwalt says adjusting to climate patterns might be essential. “It’s common to get some snow now, and whereas it actually doesn’t interrupt the breeding exercise to an enormous diploma, it could possibly have an effect on accessible meals sources utilized by the hens, so it’s essential to maintain up with that,” he mentioned. “When the climate is dicey, we spend a number of scouting time on south- and southwest-facing slopes. Hens will key in on the primary inexperienced vegetation, but additionally heftier meals sources like grasshoppers and even snails. Discover what hens are feeding on and the gobblers are by no means far-off.”
Greatest Day of the Strut No. 6: Might 15
When the (principally) bell-shaped curve of the turkey breeding season on its downward trajectory, Shane Simpson of Simpson Outdoor shifts his searching effort into overdrive. Whereas the turkey skilled calls Minnesota house, he goes after gobblers all around the nation, and he chooses the mid-Might interval as his favourite. “Everybody appears to need to get first crack and go on the opener, and I get that, to a level,” he mentioned. “However to me, turkey searching is simply extra fulfilling when the timber are leafing out, there’s inexperienced stuff within the woods and fields, and temps are heat and constant.”
However private consolation simply scratches the floor of Simpson’s favourite time interval. “I just like the roost hunt an entire lot, and that mid-Might interval is after I’ve had probably the most success,” he mentioned. “Gobblers and hens sometimes roost aside, however that point of 12 months it’s much more dramatic. If I can get a tom roosted within the night, then do my half the following morning, my possibilities of killing him—or calling him up for a buddy, which I do a number of—are exponentially increased than at some other time of season. And whereas lots of people assume gobbling decreases because the season progresses, I’ve discovered that there’s an enormous gobbling peak about that point; with extra hens heading to nests, toms spend much more time alone—which implies they’ll be gobbling as a lot as, if no more than, they did within the early season. It’s a roost-hunter’s dream.”
Greatest Day of the Strut No. 7: Might 28
I’ve been searching Minnesota and Wisconsin for over 30 years and have a number of “greatest” days in my reminiscence financial institution, however my favourite time-frame lies exhausting in opposition to the shut of the season. When my buddies inform me I’m nuts, I concede that there’s no strategy to sugar-coat the drawbacks. It may be sweaty-warm, even at daybreak. Bugs generally is a drawback, and the heavy foliage could make it robust to listen to a gobble. In truth, I wouldn’t choose the final week of Might as my favourite time of the spring to hunt simply any gobbler. But when I needed to choose absolutely the prime time to tag my greatest turkey of the season, it will be the final couple of days within the fifth month.
Right here’s what’s taking place. Most hens are sitting now, which signifies that previous, hook-spurred gobbler, the one which hens have been working to all spring, abruptly finds himself alone rather a lot. He could proceed to plant his ft for some time, anticipating hens to cooperate like they did in April, however when that proves fruitless, he’ll strap on his monitor footwear and run to a name like every 2-year-old. Even higher, gobblers are beginning to flock again up now, which merely offers me one other software within the field that may be efficient. If toms aren’t coming to your yelps and reducing, toss a gobble at ‘em, or throw a fighting-purr celebration, and the outcomes might be dramatic. Lastly, most hunters have thrown within the towel for the 12 months, that means I’ve received just about each public spot I hunt all to myself. I’ve additionally accessed tons of personal land within the late season that was inaccessible solely two weeks earlier. So if you end up on the tail finish of the season with a tag nonetheless in you pocket, take into account your self fortunate. You’ve simply save the very best for final, that’s all.