For all the build-up, I have to say that this year's KY Yute Hunt was far from what it promised to be.
You have to understand that normally, I do not expect a whole lot of action for the Yutes. The first weekend in April has usually had a lot of nasty weather, and it's usually a lot colder than one would like to take the little ones out. This year seemed to be different.
For one thing, I had never seen so many turkeys. The flocks were larger than normal, and they were roosting in odd spots. I attributed the latter to there just being so many new ones about, it was hard to find a roost. We also had some losses due to Ike, an ice storm and a couple of wind storms over the Winter.
Still, too many turkeys is a good thing, right? These were mostly yearlings. The hatch last year was phenomenal. Experts attribute it to the cicadas that hit in May. The abundance of these juicy morsels caused the poults to survive in record numbers. Last Fall I saw a dozen turkeys at a time from my treestand, nearly every time I went out.
My hopes were high. For the most part, I had suspended my normal scouting activities, because I was bumping into too many turkeys. Angus had Spring Break the week before season. We went out, but we stayed well back from the known haunts and just glassed. Pre-season calling is illegal, and I don't recommend it anyway. We were just out to listen and maybe catch a glimpse from a distance. Still, it seemed that we were always at the wrong spot at the wrong time. In one instance, we had to lay down in the grass to keep from busting a flock. We still got busted, but it made for a fun time.
So everything should have been aces this weekend, what happened? Weather and turkey lust-- pure and simple. I can tell you definitively that I watched two things happen over the week. Up until Thursday morning, the mature gobblers had been sounding off. There was one old bird I've been hearing since February 12th, cranking from the roost. He and his buddies were cranking away on the roost. I have to say the gobbles overall are a bit sparser than usual this year. I'm not sure how many old gobs are about, but there were plenty of hens. Everything was building to a peak on Thursday. Wednesday and Thursday we saw gobblers out actively seeking hens in that frantic search mode you see much later in the year, striding about the pasture, gobbling down into every little hollow and listening for a response. Then the rain hit Thursday evening and Friday was one blast of rain and wind after another. It all cleared out by Midnight, and if you had just showed up on Saturday morning, you would have not known anything was amiss. However, Saturday morning was different-- very different.
As I said, it had all been building. By Saturday, it had all fallen in. We sat for hours in one of our best spots listening for a gobble we could hunt. Nothing. There were a few faint gobbles, but they were well off the property. We counted very few shots-- maybe a third of what we normally hear for a Yute Opener.
We stayed, made the rounds at a couple of other spots and went in. Angus had a gig to play Saturday night, so we missed hunting the afternoon.
Sunday looked promising, a low in the mid-40's and a high in the 70's. We decided to try again, doing what we'd done. Again, zip. This time it was even worse. On Saturday we had heard a flock of hens come up within 80 yards of us. Sunday, the woods were absent of birds. After aggressive yelping into a few prime spots didn't produce anything, we went to the backside of Gobbler's Knob and took a nap. What we encountered up there was telling.
As I mentioned in the previous post, we ran into one hen and three jakes. Now, putting it all together, I am going to form an hypothesis. Y'all are welcome to pull this apart. That's what it's there for. My theory is that the normal way of things is that flocks bunch up at the end of Winter and then split apart. We saw that splitting going on in the last few weeks of March. The gobblers started to get randy with the warm weather and started seeking female companionship. We saw that behavior Wednesday and Thursday. Friday came the bad weather. While the world was hunkered down, the turkeys stayed busy. Somewhere over Friday, amid the rain and wind, they all met up. My guess is that the horrible weather was forcing them to all seek the same cover, and this got the hens and the gobs linked up. By Saturday morning, we were seeing a triple-whammy of first off, a lot of young hens, birds that were still somewhat subdued from the passing of that massive front, and lastly Gobblers close-in with hens and not out searching.
I don't want this to sound like an expert opinion-- it's just mine. I'd just as soon someone pick it apart and set me straight. We just had a repeat of Friday's weather over last night, and now we're in for 3-4 days of unseasonably cold weather and snow. My guess is that when we get out next Saturday the gobbling on the roost will be subued again, and we may not see hearty gobbling again until the week prior to the Opener on the 18th.
They haven't yet put up the Telecheck results for 2009, but my prediction is that the Northeast Section of Ky will show lower-than-average harvest for the Yute Seaon.