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Toms “Gobbled Out” Before Spring Season Starts?

This Turkey Tuesday is about gobbling activity – in this case, the annual chatter about toms being “gobbled out” before spring seasons start. In many areas of the South, February is a month when gobbling picks up. That uptick prompts some hunters to assume that gobbling will end before they can start chasing birds. But alas, toms gobbling now is normal and simply part of their social system. Photoperiod prompts testosterone levels in toms to increase, so they become receptive to breeding long before hens do – which is why you see hens ignoring the displays and gobbling around them at this point. Research has shown that toms in winter flocks commonly start fighting, displaying, and gobbling as the time nears when these flocks will dissolve and become smaller breeding groups. And every turkey hunter knows that hunting pressure, the onset of nesting by hens, and weather all influence gobbling activity. But research has also shown that gobbling activity will increase in response to both competition amongst toms and availability of hens later in the breeding period. The gobbling you’re hearing right now is related to the former, toms are gobbling to each other to assert and test dominance and display around each other. The hens, like those in this picture by Matt Addington, are largely indifferent to these shenanigans – it’s mostly us turkey hunters that are worried at this point! But relax, research has shown that toms really ramp up the gobbling ~45 days before hens become receptive with the approach of nesting, and that is still many weeks away. The take home is, hearing gobbling activity long before the onset of breeding is common and expected in the wild turkey world, certainly not a sign that they’ll be “gobbled out” before we can chase them.

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