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First Turkey Seasons Open

Though much of the Eastern half of the U.S. has been gripped in a very unMarch-like chill this week, the cold weather has done little to discourage fanatical turkey chasers from getting pumped up about the quickly approaching season. In fact, while seasons are still as far away as almost two months in some Northern states, the first official turkey season of 2005 opened on the Seminole Reservation in southern Florida March 1 where the crew from Turkey Call TV is filming their first hunt of the year. The rest of the southern zone opened today (March 4) so the first tags of the season should be quickly filled.

I hope to hear something by Monday from the Turkey Call crew to let all of you know how things are going down there. Here's what I'm hearing from some other parts of the U.S.

In Virginia, my good friend Tommy Barham, a pro-staffer with Primos Hunting Calls, says some gobblers already have been spotted strutting in fields and are working hard to set the pecking order for the coming spring. The state enjoyed a great hatch in 2004, so Tommy and others are hopeful for a great spring as the woods should be filled with a lot of loud gobbling, quick-to-the-call 2 year olds.

In Alabama, which will see its first seasons open March 15, colder than normal weather still has birds bunched up and shut mouth, though some gobbling has been heard. Alan Clemmons, an outdoor writer from the area, says birds are starting to get more active.

It's much the same in South Carolina, where the Low Country season also opens March 15. Brian Dowler with the NWTF went out the other day, but didn't hear anything. I suspect he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My experience for the 7 years I lived and hunted down there in and around Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale counties, was that during the first week of the season the turkeys are still pretty flocked up. You'll hear good gobbling in the morning, but be prepared to work an entire gang to the gun then pick your shot carefully if the tom gets into range. By the time the rest of the state comes in April 1, you're usually hunting single gobblers.

Over in Missouri, perhaps THE best state for turkey hunting in the U.S., Hunter Specialties' Alex Rutledge says the birds are starting to do their thing a little, but are probably really about two weeks away from really getting cranked up. He promises to keep us posted as March plays out.

Meanwhile, up North, Gerry Bethge, a former editor at OL and current managing editor of Salt Water Sportsman, said when premature warm weather hit Massachusetts and New York a couple weeks ago, some longbeards were gobbling and strutting hard. With little snowfall this winter, the birds should have survived the winter in good shape so hopes are high. If the early warm weather keeps up (not the case this past week!) some hunters fear the birds will have done their thing by the start of the season and not work well to the call.

I for one have a rematch with a walking Butterball scheduled at Gerry's place this spring, so I'm hoping that won't be the case. Last season, the behemoth strolled in on my blind side after being worked by me and Rick Story of the U.S. Sportsman's Alliance for close to two hours. I never was able to get turned around and squeeze off a shot.

Across the border in Connecticut, Matt Wettish with The Outdoor Media Group, has begun putting in a little scouting time though the season remains almost two months away. During that spell of warmer weather, toms were also seen strutting, gobbling and setting their pecking order through a little fighting. Checking one of his spots in the evening he found 30 birds roosted right off a field. When morning rolled around, Matt said it sounded like it was late April! That, my friend, is a good sound indeed and enough to pump any hunter up for opening day.

Lastly, all the way up in Maine, writer Steve Hickoff, has been stalking one lone gobbler like the paparazzi this winter, and in so doing, heard it cut loose with some gobbles the other morning. The odd thing about that, it was during a snow squall in 29 degree temps!

Don't let your friends tell you these birds don't gobble except in spring. They'll gobble anytime the mood moves them, apparently, even in a raging snow storm.

Let us know what's going on in your state. Click on the "Comments" button below and share what you've been seeing and hearing as well as what your buddies are anticipating for the coming season.


Greg Russell

It is getting exciting. My Buddy and I have a guided hunt scheduled with Shawn Brown, owner of Royal Flush Enterprises in Parke County, Indiana.
Harold and I actually scored a double last season with Shawn guiding for us. I`ve submitted the story of our hunt to Outdoor Life magazine to look at, so who knows. Maybe you`ll get to read about how the double happened. It was one exciting hunt in more ways than one.

kenny tedder

My buddy heard the first gobble of the season yesterday, March 3, here in WV!!

Matt Malloch

Indiana, I have been watching a flock of 40 plus birds on the property where I hunt. I have seen a pie-bald tom, a white tom, and some white hens. This past deer season I was in my tree and heard some hens kee-keeing, pretty neat to hear them talk. I usually spend a couple days a week on my turkey property videoing them and patterning them. The key to any turkey hunters success is finding the roost!

Mert Mertens

Where I hunt in south central Iowa, along the Missouri border. the farmers think the turkey population is way down, and some blame it on bobcats. Iowa is thinking about opening a trapping season on babcats next fall. Would bobcats reduce the turkey population?


Lots of snow here in northern Michigan. The birds have had to contend with 2 feet for the last month. Hopefully the winter kill is not too bad. Easy pickings for the coyotes!