By Jon Kocan
Stillwater News Press
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It is going to be a tough opening day for Cross Timbers turkey hunters.
As of this writing, Sunday’s forecast calls for rain to begin at noon and temperatures to stay mild with a high of 60 degrees. These weather conditions are not favorable to getting a gobbler into high spirits.
But that does not mean the season is lost. Turkey movement has been improving and the transition into the breeding season has moved along well to this point.
As with bucks in the fall, gobblers lose their mind due to hormones. I’ve seen several nice toms so far with seven and eight inch beards, but Wednesday night I saw a real lunker for the first time.
He was walking a field edge around sunset, and he was a butterball. Being close to his roost he had his head out straight looking for a few things to eat before bed. He looked like he was going to tip over forward he was so big, and his beard scraped on the ground with each step he took.
Just like in the fall when big deer forget to be safe, there he was caught acting with little consideration for his own safety.
It is safe to say that breeding has begun. Several changes have occurred in the last few weeks. Flocks have fractured and hens have begun to spend time on their own. This is a great indicator that nests have been made and should be filling in with eggs.
As the season progresses, hens will begin incubating their eggs once they have enough. This brings about an interesting dynamic that could indicate success may be easier later in the season.
Aside from poor weather for opening day, every hen in the woods is in breeding form. So we have poor weather, lots of hens and the forecast for tough hunting for opening day. But the season lasts a month, and as we move through April the hens will begin to disappear.
A lone hen feeding is usually close to her nest and having an idea of where that could be goes a long way toward putting a plan together. Sometimes they nest in interesting places. One year I found a nest on the edge of a county road in close proximity to a barn. She was using the traffic from the road and barn as cover to ensure she stayed hidden.
I would be willing to hedge a bet that lazy hunting may pay off better early in the season. If gobblers roost with or around hens, they will be occupied the second they come off the roost. Once nature has taken its course hens will return to their nests.
The mid-day and afternoon hunts should create solid opportunities. That is the time of day I have seen gobblers cruising alone or without hens over the last two weeks.
This week the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation released a gobbler report for the upcoming season. Regional biologist for the ODWC provided some very good information and insight in the report that can be found at www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Jon Kocan is an outdoor columnist for the Stillwater News Press. Kocan is a long-time local hunter. Email Kocan at firstname.lastname@example.org