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Lack of Latitudinal Variation

This Turkey Tuesday is about latitudinal variation, or lack thereof, in gobbling activity from one portion of a state to another. With breeding season about to be upon us in many areas, toms are starting to gobble in earnest. Over the upcoming weeks, gobbling activity will ramp up in southern areas which leaves us turkey hunters thinking that birds in one part of a state start gobbling earlier than in other parts. This belief is why some of us suggest that having zones within states open seasons earlier than others is warranted, so that birds don’t “gobble out” before the season opens. The reality is, across the spatial extent of a state the size of Alabama, there is little variation in gobbling activity from north to south. The second image shows weekly gobbling activity collected as part of an ongoing statewide collaborative study where gobbling data are collected from sites distributed throughout the state. As you can see, initial peaks in gobbling activity are identical from the northern and southern sites. After that initial peak, the data track similarly but there are no clear trends based simply on latitude. Rather, gobbling and breeding activities initially ramp up primarily because of changes in photoperiod, and after that initial peak, other factors such as density of toms, hunting pressure, harvest, and hen breeding efforts drive how much gobbling we hear. The take home is, what’s occurring with gobbling and other breeding activities are consistent a hours north or south of a particular location. In other words, how toms are behaving in one area is largely consistent with areas hours away, which is also why we see other aspects of turkey reproduction such as laying and incubation dates be similarly consistent across spaces as large at the state of Alabama.

Photos of toms ©Tes Randle Jolly.

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