Turkey hunters are always concerned about the weather, but they’re especially on edge this year. Spring 2012 arrived early and featured record temperatures across much of the country. As a result, many hunters were worried that gobbling, breeding and nesting would be far ahead of schedule, and that turkey mating activity might be finished when some seasons opened.
We asked Lovett Williams, one of the country’s best-known turkey biologists and researchers, how the unusual spring might affect turkeys.
“Gobbling is triggered by warm weather, (but) hens are stimulated to breed by increasing daylight,” he wrote. “The daylight period is a better predictor of spring than the weather.
“In southern Florida, gobbling sometimes begins in late fall and doesn’t stop unless the weather cools. Sometimes, turkeys gobble all winter. Hens seem to be affected only slightly by the weather and pay no attention to early gobbling. When hen flocks break up when spring finally comes, they go to gobbling, breed and then go to nest.
“Nature has it right. Eggs are expensive to make, and hens don’t re-nest after they have a hatch. If hens went by the weather, they would get fooled some years and lay early. When poults hatched, there would be nothing for them to eat. That could be catastrophic for a turkey population if that happened four or five consecutive years, which could be possible over thousands of years.
“Gobbling is cheap. Gobblers can stop gobbling when the weather cools and resume when it warms again.”