Turkey a gobblin'

Turkey gobblers typically do more of what earned their name in the very earliest days of the spring hunting season.

Chances are good that more Kentucky wild turkeys will go home with hunters today and Sunday than any two other days of the year.

That is because today is the opening of the state’s traditional spring gobbler hunting season. Beginning on the Saturday nearest to April 15, this year’s season runs April 17-May 9.

The 23-day season is scheduled to encompass four weekends to provide a maximum amount of opportunities for hunters who can get to the woods only on Saturdays and Sundays. History has shown, however, nothing typically matches the opening weekend.

Harvest data regularly indicates that more turkeys are taken on the first Saturday and Sunday of the gobbler season than any other segment of the spring hunt. And, certainly, no period of fall either-sex turkey seasons even comes remotely close to the spring hunt’s opening weekend.

A couple of factors make this reality. Hunter participation is major in this. Opening weekend typically draws far more gobbler hunters afield than later days. There are those who are out there every time they can be, but those who are less driven to hunt persistently usually at least pick the earliest days of the season for their part of the action.

Secondly, the early days of Kentucky season are closer to the recent peak of turkey breeding and more gobbling vocalizations by tom turkeys make the hunters’ challenge a little easier. At the least, more gobbling clues hunters into the location of big boy turkeys, and the rattling calls give hunters assurance that the sought game is out there and nearby.

Gobbling naturally decreases as breeding activity winds down somewhat, but another reason that tom turkeys begin to hold their tongues, so to speak, is that they begin to react to hunting pressure. After a very few days of the season, gobblers grow more reluctant to sound off in response to hen calls when they have heard lots of man-made hen calls.

Turkey gobblers are not highly intelligent as some people make them out to be, but they have good instincts when it seems that there is a darker force out there in the woods. All the extra activity of the early turkey season — people walking in the woods, truck doors closing, inauthentic sounds of hens and phony locator calls of owls, woodpeckers, etc. — tell them something is going on. They do not have to understand it all to grow more wary than usual.

Throughout the new season, hunters will find regulations unchanged from recent seasons. Those include a maximum bag limit of two male or bearded turkeys for all spring hunting, and no more than one taken during a single day.

Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources managers say there should be an improved crop of 2-year-old gobblers available to keep hunters busy this season, an outlook based on an improvement in turkey reproduction and brood survival in the spring of 2019.

That outlook should suggest a harvest as good or better than the one of 2020, when Kentucky hunters took a reported 31,700-plus turkeys.

• Advancing temperatures, lengthening periods of daily sunlight and other factors are pushing the progression on spring on many fronts.

Within the past several days, foliage on many species of trees hereabouts have gone from miniatures to near full size. Poof, and it is a green environment again.

Multiple people have reported observations of our native ruby-throated hummingbirds showing up again in the spring/summer nesting territories here. Of course, they are back from winter migration, having sheltered in much warmer climes with blooms and insects to sustain them. Many travel from here to southern Mexico and Central America in fall, then return here in April and May.

Reports indicate that largemouth bass have begun spawning activities in shallow water of embayments on the big waters of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Water temperatures combined with water elevation and fluctuations determine the timing of this piscatorial event, one that is of significant interest to throngs of anglers on the sister impoundments.

Temperature gauge sampling around the two reservoirs indicate that surface temperatures have been waffling around the mid-60s Fahrenheit level earlier this week, a level consistent with movement of bigmouths into shallow spawning areas.

• Ongoing through April at the Land Between the Lakes’ Woodlands Nature Station is Homeschool Month with a schedule of programs and activities to use the outdoors as a classroom.

A Nature Discovery Activity Book available at the Nature Station can guide kids and homeschool educators through a variety of exploration activities scheduled. Completion of the activity book and at least two featured programs earns participants Nature Discovery patches and certificates.

The featured programs remaining through the month include Hematite Trail Exploration Day, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. today; Going Batty! At 2:30 p.m. Sunday; Slimy Science at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday; 10 Simple Ways to Help Wildlife at Home at 2:30 p.m. Thursday; Blast the Past: Iron Furnace History, 11 a.m.-noon Saturday, April 24; Tales of Scales at 2:30 p.m. April 26; Birds 101 at 2:30 April 28; and the Seventh Annual Homeschoolers Day, a virtual event, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on April 30.

The Homeschoolers Day will incorporate activities and videos in science, English, art and math combined with nature fun.

For more information, phone the Nature Station at 270-924-2299.

Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. Email outdoors news items to outdoors@paducahsun.com or phone 270-575-8650.

Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. Email outdoors news items to outdoors@paducahsun.com or phone 270-575-8650.

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