When I stepped out of the shower one morning last week, my wife stuck her head out from under the covers and drowsily asked, “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” I asked. I stopped toweling my head to hear her answer and instead was greeted by a trio of lusty gobblers calling from a white-oak grove on a ridge north of our house. That’s my idea of a wake-up call.
I’m sure many of you are ahead of me in recording the first gobbles of the year. It shouldn’t surprise me to hear gobblers sounding off during the third week of March, but it always makes my heart skip a beat.
Gobblers start serenading hens weeks before their womenfolk are ready for romance. The chorus reaches a crescendo as the nuptials approach, then drops off as hens quit playing hard to get. Gobblers get lonesome again when hens begin sitting on nests a week or two later.
Missouri’s spring turkey-hunting season is set to coincide with that second peak of gobbling activity. Unusually warm or cold weather can shift this peak earlier or later by a few days, but the biggest trigger for gobbling is day length. Once we get to mid-April, toms are going to gobble no matter what.
Setting the hunting season this way gives turkeys time to take care of the important business of making more turkeys. It also puts hunters in the field when toms are most receptive to calling and less likely to be distracted by real hens.
So, it’s time for me to put fresh chalk on my classic Ike Ashby walnut box call. I’ll sand my slate to coax the best possible tone out of the Tunable Peg call invented by my friend Kenny Long down in El Dorado Springs. I’ll sit on the deck mornings, trying to pinpoint the tree where the loudest bass sings, and I’ll plot strategies that Meleagris gallopavo will demolish with his infinite capriciousness.
I wonder if someone makes an alarm clock with a gobble tone…