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Gobbling Activity Variation Day to Day

This Turkey Tuesday is about gobbling activity – in this case, the sometimes dramatic day to day variation that all turkey hunters have experienced. The second image shows daily gobbling activity from this past spring at a single location on a site in Alabama. As turkey hunters, we’ve all experienced the boom-and-bust nature of gobbling – one day they’re tearing it up, the next day the woods are quiet. Why? Well, obviously harvesting a tom from a location could be at play, and toms certainly move around during spring and roost in different locations, which can influence the gobbling we hear. Research has also shown that weather can influence gobbling, but the influence of weather compared to hen behavior (onset of nesting) and hunting activity is minimal. So what else? Interestingly, turkeys have pulsatile testosterone levels which causes day-to-day fluctuations in breeding behaviors, and gobbling is partially influenced by changes in testosterone. Also, testosterone levels simply oscillate in a given tom through time, producing predictable fluctuations in gobbling – and many behaviors like gobbling synchronize within populations. In other words, toms within a local population synchronize their behaviors so that when gobbling occurs, it occurs across many toms in the population – and when it’s quiet, it’s quiet. The take home is, it makes sense to gobble when your competition is gobbling, and to remain quiet when your competition is quiet. As turkey hunters, we sure enjoy the days when gobbling is on fire, and we deal with the days when the woods are quiet. What produces those boom-and-bust cycles in gobbling is a complex set of interacting factors.

Picture of toms @ Tes Randle Jolly

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2 Responses

  1. You hear the saying “they have hens” or “henned up”. In your professional opinion do you think this idea or fact could determine the lack of gobbling? Looking at the graph of march 26 and count close to 110 gobbles is that through out the entire day or just a certain time frame? I could go on and on with questions about this particular subject, I’m that curious about these ghosts.

  2. The 110 gobbles is from just prior to sunrise to mid-morning. The presence of hens can certainly influence gobbling, if you think about it, if you’re already with hens your motivation to gobble would certainly be less. Gobble in the tree to alert other birds nearby that you’re there, and then remain quiet and move around with hens while strutting and displaying. At that point, it doesn’t make sense to draw more attention to yourself than necessary.

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