the Turkey Rut;
Using the Right Tactics at the Right Time
By T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain
Okay, okay, I realize that the term "rut"
does not apply to turkey breeding behavior, but I
thought it was a good way of getting your attention.
Over the years as a guide and writer I've learned
that one of the best ways to hunt any animal is to
use the right tactics at the right time. In order
to do that we have to understand how the animal is
acting at the time that we hunt it.
What causes peak breeding?
Peak breeding in many game animals is triggered by
the amount of sunlight (photoperiod), which affects
seasonal temperatures, which in turn affects the seasonal
growth of plants, which affects how much food is available,
which affects the survivability of the young of the
animals. To make it simple; if it is too cold, too
wet, or too dry, there may not be enough food for
the young animals to eat (or their mothers to provide
food, such as milk), so that the young can survive.
With turkeys (which breed in the spring and have a
short time between breeding and live young on the
ground) this means that the young need to hatch when
there is new (spring) green growth and lots of insects
When we are talking about hunting during the breeding
season, we first need to realize that most animals
go through several different phase during their breeding
season. These different phases can probably best be
described as the: 1. Pre-breeding, 2. Primary breeding,
3. Post primary breeding, 4. Supplemental/late breeding
and 5. Post breeding phases. When hunters (who rely
on particular breeding behaviors to hunt animals)
are after animals which use calls as a major part
of their breeding behavior (as in elk and turkeys)
we also need to realize that the calls used by the
males of the species to attract females often have
semi-regular peaks during the breeding phase; and
that these calling peaks usually coincide with one
or more of the above mentioned breeding phases.
Tom turkeys use gobbling as a means of attracting
hens during the breeding season. And since the toms
are often ready to look for and attract hens before
(or when) the hens are not ready (or willing) to breed,
there may be one or more gobbling peaks during the
turkey breeding season. Since toms gobble to attract
hens, but often reduce gobbling when hens are ready/willing
to breed, these gobbling peaks generally occur prior
to and after peak breeding. In other words peak turkey
gobbling usually occurs just prior to and just after
peak breeding, and since there is often a second breeding
phase, there is often a peak in gobbling activity
after the supplemental or "late" breeding
Why use calls to hunt turkeys?
Since it is often easy to locate tom turkeys when
they are actively gobbling, and since toms are often
fairly willing to respond to both tom and hens calls
during the same time frame as they are actively gobbling,
hunters often choose to hunt during these gobbling
peaks, and they often use calls to figure out where
the toms are at, and use calls to get the toms to
come in close for a shot. We can use locator calls
(like owl hoots, and woodpecker, peacock and coyote
calls), and hen calls and gobbles to locate toms;
and we can use hen calls to bring the toms in close
enough to hunt.
Can we predict peak breeding and gobbling?
Somewhere in my job description as a game researcher,
and as an outdoor writer and speaker, it states that
I should do some research on when peak breeding of
the game occurs, and try to figure out ways to predict
when peak breeding and calling occurs. I've spent
four years researching turkeys to figure out the different
phases of the breeding season.
When is Peak Gobbling in each State?
And, realizing that turkeys in different areas breed
at different times, because spring arrives at different
times in different areas, I contacted the turkey researcher
or biologist from as many states as I could, and asked
them when peak gobbling usually occurred in their
states. To find out when peak gobbling usually occurs
in your state, log on to www.TRMichels.com, and click
on "Peak Turkey Gobbling Dates" on the home
page, or in the index. This may help you choose the
best times to hunt, or know how to expect the turkeys
to act during the dates you hunt, which in turn can
help you choose the best tactics to use during your
Which Tactics to use during each Breeding Phase?
Somewhere in my job description as an outfitter and
guide it states that I should figure out the best
techniques to use hunt turkeys during the different
breeding phases. After several years researching turkeys,
and several years hunting turkeys, I've devised several
hunting techniques for each particular breeding phase.
You can view these by logging on to www.TRMichels.com
and clicking on the "Turkey Activity Graphs",
"T.R.'s Tips: Turkey Hunting" on the home
page, and by reading the "Turkey Articles"
in Trinity Mountain Outdoor News.
If you have questions about turkey hunting, feel
free to log on to the "T.R.'s Tips Talk Forum
/ Message Board" and ask away; either I or someone
else will get back to you as soon as we can. There
is a lot more information on turkey biology and behavior,
and on turkey hunting tactics and techniques, in my
Turkey Addict's Manual.
Be safe and have a good time turkey hunting.
If you are interested in more turkey
hunting tips, or more turkey biology and behavior,
click on Trinity Mountain Outdoor News and T.R.'s
Hunting Tips at www.TRMichels.com. If you have questions
about turkeys log on to the T.R.'s Tips message board.
To find out when peak turkey gobbling can be expected
in your area, click on Peak Turkey Gobbling Dates.
This article is an excerpt from the
Turkey Addict's Manual ($14.95 + $5.00 S&H), by
T.R. Michels, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor
T.R. Michels is a nationally recognized
game researcher/wildlife behaviorist, outdoor writer
and speaker. He is the author of the Whitetail, Elk,
Duck & Goose, and Turkey Addict's Manuals. His
latest products are the 2003 Revised Edition of the
Whitetail Addict's Manual, the 2003 Revised Edition
of the Elk Addict's Manual; and the 2003 Revised Edition
of the Duck & Goose Addict's Manual. For a catalog
of books and other hunting products contact: T.R.
Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors, PO Box 284, Wanamingo,
MN 55983, USA. Phone: 507-824-3296, E-mail: TRMichels@yahoo.com,
Web Site: www.TRMichels.com