The gobbles of a wild tom turkey reverberating throughout a spring woods is the Holy Grail of turkey hunting. It is the single most defining moment for a turkey hunter that he has successfully slipped undetected to within hearing distance of America's largest game bird.

Once you hear one close enough and clear enough to discern those deep-throated vibrations that will inevitably raise the tiny hairs on the back of your neck, you will no doubt understand why Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the eastern wild turkey the national bird of the United States.


Turkey hunter survey

For all that, April is the prime month statewide for wild turkey gobbling activity. Each year, the turkey program biologists at the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks headed up by Dave Godwin work to compile tons of data submitted by hunters via the annual Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey. This data is summarized and presented in the annual Mississippi Wild Turkey Report known as the "Spittin' & Drummin'" report.

In this report, turkey activity and observational data is reported and compiled from each of the five officially designated MDWFP Turkey Regions encompassing the whole state. Then this data is averaged together to give an entire statewide perspective on wild turkey activity.

It is a fascinating report and impressively comprehensive. Every serious turkey hunter should obtain a copy and study it in depth especially for their home turkey region.

Representative data presented in this report comes from the previous hunting season and includes turkey harvest data per 100 hours of hunting time, poult count per total hens and spur length class or age structure. Gobbling activity is depicted in charts listing gobblers and gobbles heard per 10 hours, as well as per 10 hours hunted by each week of the season.

Turkey observation data is also reported both for gobblers and jakes per 100 hours of hunting. This information can tell hunters a great deal about their turkey regions and the state as a whole.


Prime time

Mississippi's spring turkey season only lasts for seven weeks plus one week for youth hunting. Normally the season starts around the second or third weekend of March, depending on how the calendar dates fall. Then the season runs until the first of May.

In the Magnolia State, the turkey season seems to be like two distinct seasons. Early on, the woods are wide open and brown. March turkey hunting permits the hunter to see and hear long distances in the woods.

Of course there are obvious advantages and some disadvantages to both hunter and the hunted. This goes on for about three weeks, and then - bam! - it's all green. The month of April has officially arrived.

Once the green-up starts, the woods close in and close in quick. Sometimes it seems like it happens overnight. All of a sudden gobbling action seems like it is a half mile away when it might actually be only a hundred yards. Visibility is reduced and gobbles are muffled, raising the stakes for getting in close to the bird. Sometimes the action gets to be really close. On occasion it tends to get too close way too fast.


Sustained gobbling ramps up

"Luckily for turkey hunting guides like me, April offers a full month of hunting that really heats up for gobbling activity. The woods are now thick and green. Bushes and leaves act like sound-deafening insulation, but the frequency of active gobbling makes up for the difference this time of year," says Ronnie Foy of Foy's Guide Service. "The thick cover may mask a gobble, but it allows hunters to sneak around without getting busted so easily like in the first weeks of the season when the woods are so open.

"Now to be honest, there might be a single week within the whole season that reports a higher total frequency of gobbles throughout the week, but figured all total, April is the month when more gobbles are heard more often under usual seasonal circumstances."

This is because breeding activity is in full swing come April, but also as the season winds down and more bred hens go to their nests, the gobblers are even more diligent to locate any hens that have not yet been bred.

"April is also a good time to use decoys once the hen flocks have been long busted up and many are now doing their nesting duties," Foy said. "A gobbler with some fire left just can't resist some sweet hen calling and the sight of a couple hen decoys out on the edge of a field or along an open logging road.

"If you really want to crank up some challenging turkey hunting, then add a gobbler or jake decoy to a mix of hen decoys, and even some stubborn old boss toms will drop their guards."

April may indeed bring some spring showers, but it also signals the prime gobbling season. Hone your calling skills and spend as much time as possible in the woods now.