Gobbler Report Gives Turkey Hunters Latest Info From Field

April 4, 2019

Gobbler activity is picking up ahead of Saturday's turkey hunting season opener across most of the state. (Matt Haney/Readers' Photo Showcase 2015)

Gobbler Report Gives Turkey Hunters Latest Info From Field

Oklahoma’s turkey hunting season will open Saturday, April 6, across all of the state except in the southeastern zone. The season will open in the southeast April 22.

IMPORTANT: If you plan to go turkey hunting and HAVE NOT CONFIRMEDyour account information at www.GoOutdoorsOklahoma.com, it is important to do so before you hunt. Turkey harvests require online reporting through the E-check system, which is now tied to your Go Outdoors Oklahoma account. If your account requires attention, you may not be able to comply with E-check regulations. To check your account information now, CLICK HERE.

To give hunters an idea of what to expect in various parts of the state, wildlife  biologists have submitted the latest information and present it here in the 2019 Gobbler Report.

CENTRAL REGION

Reported by Brandon Baker, Wildlife Biologist

Current gobbler activity: Turkeys are beginning to break up. Gobblers are vocal on roost sites. Gobblers are strutting pretty actively now. As the season opens, activity should be in full swing with warmer days predicted.

Condition of habitat: Areas in the Central Region have been burned and are greening up fast, which will draw turkeys to use these areas for strutting activity and feeding as insects are on the rise. Overall nesting habitat is good, and moisture is excellent going into nesting and brood-rearing season.

Reports from landowners or scouting hunters: Gobbling activity is good on the roost but slow after leaving the roost.

Nearby WMAs that are good bets for turkey hunters: In North Central: Kaw and Deep Fork WMAs. South Central: Hickory Creek and Arbuckle Springs WMAs.

Tips to increase a hunter's chances for success:

  1. Midday hunting is sometimes overlooked but can be really good while hens are attending nests, and gobblers are looking for receptive hens.
  2. Patience at your call site is critical, and also not over-calling. Public-land turkeys have heard lots of calls used in previous weeks, so less is good.

Common mistakes turkey hunters should avoid:

  1. Moving locations after not hearing any gobbling for a short period. A lot of times they will come in quietly when they feel they are close to a hen.
  2. Not being ready with your hunting equipment, which allows for motion of the hunter getting into position, which is seen by the gobbler and it spooks.

Opening-day expectations: Turkey numbers going into this season are good. With warming temperatures forecasted, turkeys should be showing up in open areas strutting to impress the hens.

NORTHWEST REGION

Reported by Eddie Wilson, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Current gobbler activity: Below-average temperatures have birds a little behind schedule. Birds are breaking into smaller groups, and gobbler activity is steadily increasing throughout the Northwest.

Condition of habitat: Habitat conditions are the best they have been for several years. Last fall produced above-average rainfall and good nesting cover. The Northwest received fairly good rainfall over winter. Things are starting to green up; just some warmer temperatures are needed. Local wheat is in mostly good condition.

Reports from landowners or scouting hunters: Regionwide, landowners are reporting that turkey numbers appear to be stable. Large scale spring wildfire activity during 2018 drastically changed turkey habitat, thus moving many birds out of their traditional home ranges. Scouting hunters are reporting mixed results regarding turkey numbers on wildlife management areas. With warmer temperatures on the way, hopefully birds will continue to break up and move back into traditional home ranges.

Nearby WMAs that are good bets for turkey hunters: Canton, Cooper and Fort Supply are traditionally the most popular wildlife management areas in the northwest region. Most every WMA in the region offers turkey hunting opportunity. There are also a number of Oklahoma Land Access Program (OLAP) properties throughout the northwest region for hunters to consider using.

Hunters need to be sure and check the hunting regulations prior to hunting public lands. Not all wildlife management areas have the same regulations, most have a one-bird limit per WMA, and hunting hours close at 7 p.m. on most western WMAs to minimize disturbance to the roost sites.

Tips to increase a hunter's chances for success:

  1. Scout the area before you hunt it.
  2. Avoid over-calling.
  3. Be patient; give the bird plenty of response time.

Common mistakes turkey hunters should avoid:

  1. Stay aware of your surroundings; there are likely going to be other hunters in the area.
  2. Don't hunt too close to roost trees.
  3. Avoid hunting close to the road; get out into the woods.

Opening-day expectations: With warm weather on the way, I would expect opening weekend to be much improved over last weekend’s Youth Turkey Season. Be prepared to encounter high hunters numbers during opening weekend. Good luck, and hunt safe!

NORTHEAST REGION

Reported by J.D. Ridge, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Current gobbler activity: Turkey activity appears to have followed the late spring but is picking up rapidly with birds gobbling on the roost. Flocks are breaking up, and birds are starting to be seen across the countryside. Gobblers are going about their routines and are gathering hens.

Condition of habitat: Habitat conditions vary across the region but are mostly good. Mast crops were spotty last season, but moisture throughout late winter has brought about good spring growth and the emergence of insects. Ample nesting habitat is available from the past summer’s growth.

Reports from landowners or scouting hunters: Most reports indicate birds breaking up a bit later than usual. Birds are still doing their thing and, by all reports, numbers are good. Gobblers are being observed in small groups, and some reports indicate harems have formed.

Nearby WMAs that are good bets for turkey hunters: The region has several wildlife management areas that have turkeys present in fluctuating numbers. A few to look at that consistently produce are Hulah, Osage and Cherokee WMAs.

Tips to increase a hunter's chances for success:

  1. Put time in and scout as much as you can. Scout multiple locations to maximize opportunities for success. Scouting not only allows you to have confidence in the area you are hunting but also helps eliminate unproductive areas. You might even find a spot no one else has discovered. Scouting also helps you familiarize with the lay of the land, which can be very helpful when setting up on a bird.
  2. Pay attention to your setup when you get ready to call a bird. Be mindful of obstacles such as creeks or fence rows. Turkeys often don’t want to cross these and may “hang up.” Try to be uphill of the bird as they are often reluctant to come downhill to a call.
  3. Be patient. This seems like overused advice, but it is good advice nonetheless. Patience may describe sitting against the same tree for a couple of hours, but it may mean other things as well. It may mean to just stay in an area for a longer part of the day. Cover ground if necessary but don’t get in a hurry. Going slowly gives you a better chance to hear a distant gobble, a subtle drum, a soft yelp, or even turkeys scratching as they forage.

Common mistakes turkey hunters should avoid:

  1. Failure to prepare is a common mistake with many endeavors, and turkey hunting is not immune. Wipe the dust off the old shotgun and pattern some loads. Locate your extra turkey loads, head net, gloves, calls, etc., and brush up on your calling. As importantly, scout as many areas as you can.
  2. Discounting the rest of the day is a common turkey hunting mistake. You will almost always hear more gobbles at first light, but gobbles can be heard throughout the day. If you hear one and don’t connect right off the roost, as least you know there is a bird there. Try the gobbler at other times of day if you can. The middle of the day or throughout the afternoon can often be productive.

Opening-day expectations: Opening weekend should provide plenty of opportunity to hear birds. With a weekend opener, expect heavy pressure on public lands but don’t be discouraged. If you’ve done your scouting and know birds are in the area, give them some time. Don’t overlook midday or afternoons if possible, and hunt some weekdays if you can. Be courteous to other hunters and all can have a positive experience. Above all, be safety conscious and exercise caution when around other hunters. Get out there! Enjoy the spring weather, sights and sounds, and good luck!

SOUTHWEST REGION

Reported by Ron Smith, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Current gobbler activity: Turkey activity across the southwest region is moving along at a slower pace than previous years. Birds have just begun to move away from winter roosts and break up into smaller groups. Toms are beginning to strut but have yet to separate themselves from others.

Condition of habitat: Southwest region habitat conditions are considerably better than 2018. Good moisture has allowed winter annual vegetation to stay green and will promote rapid emergence of summer grasses. Winter wheat is in good condition across the region. Nesting cover varies from fair to good after recovery from dry conditions through winter and summer last year.

Reports from landowners or scouting hunters: Landowners and hunters have expressed concern at the slow progress of normal turkey patterns. Birds have been slow to move away from the larger winter roosts. Turkeys seem to be absent in some of their historic spring locations, while more have been found in new locations. Ongoing roost degradation through fire, drought, ice storms and brush encroachment around roost trees has moved turkeys to new areas.

Nearby WMAs that are good bets for turkey hunters: Productive WMAs across the region include Packsaddle, Black Kettle, Sandy Sanders, Altus-Lugert and Waurika.

Tips to increase a hunter's chances for success:

  1. Scouting may be more important than ever this year with turkeys shifting patterns and lower numbers in some areas.
  2. Don't be afraid to hunt through the middle of the day.
  3. Practice calling and be careful to work your way into the birds' social behavior. Sometimes calling too much can be worse than not enough.
  4. Plan your entry and exit from hunting areas carefully to avoid disturbance.

Common mistakes turkey hunters should avoid:

  1. While hunting public areas, be careful to review specific WMA regulations.
  2. As always, failure to spend as much time as possible scouting will lower success rates. Don't assume all the birds will be right where you left them last year.

Opening-day expectations: Opening-day activity may be less than in recent years but should come around as the season progresses. Success may take a little more effort this year. Putting in the extra work will hone your skills make the reward that much greater.

SOUTHEAST REGION

Reported by Jeff Ford, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Current gobbler activity: Gobblers have started breaking up, and they have been seen strutting with hens. They have not been gobbling as much as usual once they come off of the roost.

Condition of habitat: Habitat is in great condition. There are not any acorns left as is in most years, and the turkeys are doing a lot of scratching in the leaves and feeding around the edges of openings looking for insects. There is great nesting cover in most areas since there has been plenty of rain and these warm days have started everything greening up.

Reports from landowners or scouting hunters: The landowners are reporting they have seen some good flocks of turkeys during the winter months with several younger birds in the flock. Turkey hunters that have been going out and scouting early are also seeing a few more birds this year.

Nearby WMAs that are good bets for turkey hunters: As always, the Ouachita WMA is going to be a good place to look for toms this spring as well as Three Rivers WMA and James Collins WMA.

Tips to increase a hunter's chances for success:

  1. Do as much scouting as possible; do a lot of walking and look for sign. The turkeys that you can hear gobble from the road will probably have been heard by other hunters as well.

Common mistakes turkey hunters should avoid:

  1. Don't give up early, if a tom gobbles at your call but doesn't come in, it is probably with hens or just "hung up."
  2. Don't over-call or get discouraged if other hunters are in the area. Try to wait them out. Most times the tom will come back to where it answered you when the hens go to their nests and when the pressure from other hunters eases up.

Opening-day expectations: Expect lots of hunters on public land. The turkey numbers are up this year it should be a good year. The habitat for turkeys is excellent going onto spring. There has been plenty of rain this past winter but without any flooding. There should be plenty of food available.

 

For complete spring turkey season information and license requirements, consult the current Oklahoma Hunting and Fishing Regulations Guide found online at wildlifedepartment.com, on the Go Outdoors Oklahoma mobile app, or in print across the state wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold.

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