There’s good news and bad news for turkey hunters this year. Gobblers should be bigger and fatter when the spring season opens April 15. However, they probably will be more challenging to hunt.
Kentucky’s woods produced a bumper crop of acorns and nuts last fall—a prime source of food for turkeys trying to build enough fat reserves to survive the winter. While the winter of 2005-06 had a few cold blasts, it was mild enough that turkeys came through in good condition.
“This spring, I expect to see some very healthy turkeys harvested, probably a lot more trophy birds,” says Steve Dobey, Kentucky’s wild turkey biologist.
Weather plays a major role in the age and numbers of the turkey population. While the mild winter will make for better birds this spring, the drought of late spring and summer of 2005 had a significant impact on the overall numbers of new turkeys.
Young turkeys, or poults, need lots of new green vegetation and insects to live through their first year. Lush growth makes it easier for young turkeys not yet able to fly to hide from predators such as coyotes. Good plant growth also increases the supply of insects that poults eat.
Last year’s drought across much of the state reduced both insect numbers and cover for turkeys. As a result, the number of poults that survived in 2005 is the lowest in more than 20 years.
How will this affect hunting? Year-old gobblers, or jakes, are easier to hunt because they haven’t been exposed to hunting pressure. These birds are distinguished from older gobblers by the relatively short tuft of hair on their chests. With fewer jakes in the woods this year, hunters will face a higher percentage of wilier, more experienced gobblers.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to prepare for the upcoming turkey season. Get a hunting videotape and use it to help you practice your turkey calling while you’re sitting inside your house. (You cannot go outside and call to turkeys in the woods until the opening day of hunting season.)
Finally, scout well beforehand. Turkeys may not be in their usual places this year—look for concentrations in oak groves. Spend a few sunrises on a ridge top, listening for gobbles.
If you prepare well and hunt hard, this could be your trophy turkey season.
Now is the time to fish those ponds and lakes that went underwater during the spring floods. Here’s why: fish move toward the banks when a river floods, to escape the heavy current. Sometimes they are left behind when the water recedes. That means a pond with lousy fishing may suddenly have a 20-pound flathead catfish in it.