What’s the biological reason for gobblers to get “henned up” early during the annual spring turkey season? Charles Ruth, a biologist who works with turkeys in South Carolina, explained that it’s just a natural thing.
“When a gobbler gobbles, he’s doing that to attract hens, and you’ve got hens out there that have a physiological desire to be bred and will come to him,” Ruth said. “When you’ve got plenty of hens out there, they’ve got power in numbers. They’ll go to him, and he won’t come to you.”
Once bred, Ruth said, a hen will lay an egg every day for 12 to 14 days. During that time, she’s still got something ingrained that’s drawing her to the gobbler. But the more eggs she lays, the more her desire to breed wanes.
“Let her get bred and initiate a nest and start laying, and once her attraction is drawn from the physiological need to breed to the physiological need to sit on her nest, she’ll start to be out of the picture more. She’ll stay in the vicinity of that nest more. As she starts getting closer to finishing her clutch, she’ll spend more time there. Then, she’ll go on the nest and forget him.
“They’re not all on the same schedule, but if you’ve got a gobbler who’s got a certain number of hens with him, once they start to lay, and as they continue to incubate those eggs a little more, it opens things up for hunters. As fewer hens remain, a gobbler is going to be more likely to be called to the gun.”
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