Life of a Summertime Gobbler

When the seasons change, so does gobbler behavior. Mark Hatfield, NWTF director of finance administration, answers six summertime turkey questions.

How long do toms gobble into the summer?

Gobblers are physically able to mate through the end of June. Males enter the mating phase because of increasing day length, warmer temperatures and the onset of spring. It is possible for a young hen that was hatched in August (previous season) to begin her breeding phase in June. This may explain why some hear sudden outbursts of gobbling in June and also see gobblers displaying. But most likely, the gobblers are still trying to attract hens, as well as maintain dominance for breeding purposes by intimidating rivals. As the month of June continues, there are fewer and fewer hens in the mating pool.

Why do some turkeys gobble in July and August?

It’s not rare for birds to gobble during the late summer months. Some birds gobble year round. Warm days in January and other winter months will sometimes result in gobbling. There isn’t a specific reason for these gobbles, but some individual turkeys are just more vocal than others. And sometimes they gobble just because they feel like it.

Should people call to summertime gobblers?

Responding to turkey calls before or after hunting season can educate gobblers. After a while, the bird will associate your cry-wolf calls with humans, which may decrease your chances of a successful season. Also, some state laws consider this [pre- and post-season calling] harassing wildlife. Hunters and photographers should check with local game wardens for exact regulations.

Why do summertime gobblers or flocks disappear?

Gobblers have a relatively small annual range, approximately 640 acres or about one square mile. Most birds move about in search of food sources. That’s just what turkeys do. Acorns and harvested corn crop can cause turkeys to move from fields to woods or the reverse.

Do summertime gobblers associate with mature hen flocks and/or flock hens and their offspring?

Mature gobblers will share roost sites and food sources with turkeys of different ages and sex, but they do not strictly associate with each other. It’s just random chance that they are at a food source at the same time. Gobblers have nothing to do with the parental care of poults.

Is gobbling, yelping and fighting common for summertime birds?

Summertime gobblers don’t fight often. Basically, they just want to hold their position in the pecking order and not take a step backwards. Fighting can cause injuries and expends energy. That’s not productive behavior for a turkey that is not in the breeding season, or any time of the year for that matter. During the summer, a gobbler will usually maintain his position by intimidation in the form of gobbling, strutting or chasing — but very little fighting results.

Summertime gobblers live a different life than the rest of the year.

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