Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Vocal Forecast If Gobbling Activity Is Muted, Hunters Will Have to Find Alternatives to Calling Them In

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Vocal Forecast If Gobbling Activity Is Muted, Hunters Will Have to Find Alternatives to Calling Them In

Article excerpt

Hunters can yelp, cackle, kee-kee and cutt when spring gobbler season opens Saturday. But this year, simply talking turkey may not be enough.

Mating, nesting and hatching are expected to follow their usual seasonal schedules. But experts say the long winter and recent cold snap may muzzle much of the gobbling. With the birds keeping their mouths shut, aggressive calling may seem unnatural to wary toms.

"Unlike last year's warm early spring weather, which triggered an early start to gobbling, this year's cooler-than-normal March and early April have suppressed gobbling activity," said Pennsylvania Game Commission wild turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena, in a spring gobbler forecast she generally described as "promising."

"Our research has shown that although weather affects gobbling, it does not affect the onset of egg laying by hen turkeys," Casalena said. "Rather, photoperiod, the amount of daylight, triggers it."

After the Dec. 22 winter solstice, days grow progressively longer. The increase in lighted hours in February and early March stimulates the pituitary gland of wild turkey hens, causing them to ovulate.

Breeding activity begins in early March, but fertilization isn't immediate. Hens gather and store active sperm from a variety of gobblers outside their ovaries. The oviduct containment lasts 56 days in domestic turkeys -- there's been no conclusive study of delayed fertilization among wild turkeys.

Casalena said spring gobbler season is intentionally scheduled to open around the peak of nest incubation to minimize hen disturbance and the number of mistaken kills.

Over a period of about two weeks, hens will lay a clutch of about a dozen eggs, leaving the nest immediately after each egg is laid. Egg mortality is high, and they don't immediately begin to incubate.

When the clutch is fully laid, the hen settles on the nest for some 20 hours per day, raising their temperature and prompting incubation. The eggs hatch together in 26 to 28 days.

"Nesting hens are less prone to come to a hunter's call and abandon their nests," Casalena said. "... The arrival of warmer temperatures will bring more gobbling activity, and just in time for the spring turkey season. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.