American Hunter - April 2010 - 28

knowhow

Decipher the Pecking Order
By Frank Miniter, Executive Field Editor
hree 2-year-old gobblers were 150 yards away across an open hardwood bench. The canopy hadn’t leafed out yet, so I could see them in yellow late-morning light pecking along, just raising their heads when I yelped. Now and then the lead tom would half-gobble. After two hours they’d meandered 100 yards closer. At that rate they wouldn’t be in range before the noon whistles blew from volunteer fire departments down in the Catskill Mountain valleys below, ending turkey hunting for the day. There was no obstacle to stop them. They seemed to prefer subtle purring and yelping. Loud stuff made them nervous. Then a tom gobbled not 20 yards behind me and I knew why they were hesitant. I leaned into the tree. The gobbler strutted past and stopped at my decoy. I shot the bird there, but then I was stupefied. The three young gobblers dashed in and one leapt on and began spurring the dead gobbler. That event reminded me that there are reasons why jakes sneak in; why hens can be stubborn; why lone gobblers can be easy to call in; and why that young tom thrashed that dead gobbler. Most of the explanations are related to turkey hierarchy.

T

day that’s established by the dominant hen. As hens go to nest, this pattern may change with the whims of the next dominant hen in the social structure. If it’s late in the breeding cycle when hens are going to their nests, this could affect your tom’s daily schedule. If you hear a single hen calling you have one of two scenarios: either it’s a lone and lonely hen or it’s the dominant hen of a gobbler’s harem telling you she’s the leading lady. If it’s a lone hen, an obstacle or another turkey may stop it, but if not, get ready to sit still. If it’s a dominant hen in a harem, it may answer you aggressively for a while, but then it’ll likely lead the group away. Though, if the hen is in a fighting mood, you might be able to call it in. To do so, try what third-graders do when they want to get under each other’s skin: repeat everything the hen says in a loud, brash tone. If the hen comes, the gobbler will come too, though the tom will likely be last. In fact, the whole harem will likely come. When brood flocks (a matriarch hen and her offspring) split up in spring they shuffle to break up family groups. So the top hen isn’t running the show because they’re her offspring; the hen earned that top spot by fighting for it.

There is another strategy that might call in a hen-pecked tom. A few years back I spotted a strutting tom when hunting with Mark and Terry Drury. The gobbler was in a pasture with six hens. We set up in some trees 100 yards away. Mark and Terry positioned themselves 50 yards apart from each other. When the gobbler wouldn’t answer soft purring and yelping and the hens weren’t in a gossiping mood, Mark and Terry turned aggressive. The Drurys answered each other with loud and aggressive cutts and yelps. The hens began to fly from the field—they didn’t want to fight with those tough old broads. Soon the gobbler was all alone. It didn’t take the tom long to decide to check out those dominatrices.

Now, the Gents

According to a ground-breaking study done on the Welder Wildlife Refuge in Texas by C. Robert Watts decades ago, the social status of each gobbler is determined in its first year, and its social rank typically doesn’t change for the remainder of its life. Subdominant males do occasionally breed by finding hens that left a harem to find or to go to a nest. Lone subdominant gobblers

First, the Ladies

Build Your Skills

Turkeys have home ranges, not territories. Their social structure is hierarchical, not territorial. A gobbler and its harem will move according to a feeding pattern each
28 American Hunter ■  April 2010

Learn the turkey’s breeding cycle: Turkeys may breed in late February in South Texas or not until May in Vermont. Unseasonably cold or warm weather can influence the timing of the cycle, but it is chiefly regulated by day length. There are two peaks of gobbling: when breeding begins and when most hens have been bred. Listen for the second peak; it typically occurs mid-season and is a great time to call in a mature tom.



American Hunter - April 2010

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Hunter - April 2010

American Hunter - April 2010
Contents
Says You
Armed Citizen
Standing Guard
President’s Column
Bloomberg to Obama: Take “Federal Action”
First Light
Know-How
Gundogs
Gobblers in Paradise
New Guns and Gear Preview
Members’ 2009 Photo Album
Reflections on Turkey Madness
Hornady Superformance
Federal Premium HW 20-Ga.
Gear
Political Report
ILA Report
Member Info & Benefits
Regional Report
NRA Board Spotlight
NRA Woman’s Voice
Member’s Hunt
American Hunter - April 2010 - American Hunter - April 2010
American Hunter - April 2010 - Cover2
American Hunter - April 2010 - 1
American Hunter - April 2010 - Contents
American Hunter - April 2010 - 3
American Hunter - April 2010 - 4
American Hunter - April 2010 - 5
American Hunter - April 2010 - 6
American Hunter - April 2010 - 7
American Hunter - April 2010 - Says You
American Hunter - April 2010 - 9
American Hunter - April 2010 - Armed Citizen
American Hunter - April 2010 - 11
American Hunter - April 2010 - Standing Guard
American Hunter - April 2010 - 13
American Hunter - April 2010 - President’s Column
American Hunter - April 2010 - 15
American Hunter - April 2010 - Bloomberg to Obama: Take “Federal Action”
American Hunter - April 2010 - 17
American Hunter - April 2010 - 18
American Hunter - April 2010 - 19
American Hunter - April 2010 - 20
American Hunter - April 2010 - 21
American Hunter - April 2010 - First Light
American Hunter - April 2010 - 23
American Hunter - April 2010 - 24
American Hunter - April 2010 - 25
American Hunter - April 2010 - 26
American Hunter - April 2010 - 27
American Hunter - April 2010 - Know-How
American Hunter - April 2010 - 29
American Hunter - April 2010 - Gundogs
American Hunter - April 2010 - 31
American Hunter - April 2010 - Gobblers in Paradise
American Hunter - April 2010 - 33
American Hunter - April 2010 - 34
American Hunter - April 2010 - 35
American Hunter - April 2010 - New Guns and Gear Preview
American Hunter - April 2010 - 37
American Hunter - April 2010 - 38
American Hunter - April 2010 - 39
American Hunter - April 2010 - 40
American Hunter - April 2010 - 41
American Hunter - April 2010 - 42
American Hunter - April 2010 - 43
American Hunter - April 2010 - 44
American Hunter - April 2010 - 45
American Hunter - April 2010 - 46
American Hunter - April 2010 - 47
American Hunter - April 2010 - Members’ 2009 Photo Album
American Hunter - April 2010 - 49
American Hunter - April 2010 - 50
American Hunter - April 2010 - 51
American Hunter - April 2010 - 52
American Hunter - April 2010 - 53
American Hunter - April 2010 - Reflections on Turkey Madness
American Hunter - April 2010 - 55
American Hunter - April 2010 - Hornady Superformance
American Hunter - April 2010 - 57
American Hunter - April 2010 - Federal Premium HW 20-Ga.
American Hunter - April 2010 - 59
American Hunter - April 2010 - Gear
American Hunter - April 2010 - 61
American Hunter - April 2010 - Political Report
American Hunter - April 2010 - 63
American Hunter - April 2010 - ILA Report
American Hunter - April 2010 - 65
American Hunter - April 2010 - Regional Report
American Hunter - April 2010 - NRA Board Spotlight
American Hunter - April 2010 - 66a
American Hunter - April 2010 - 67a
American Hunter - April 2010 - 66b
American Hunter - April 2010 - 67b
American Hunter - April 2010 - 66c
American Hunter - April 2010 - 67c
American Hunter - April 2010 - 66d
American Hunter - April 2010 - 67d
American Hunter - April 2010 - NRA Woman’s Voice
American Hunter - April 2010 - 69
American Hunter - April 2010 - 70
American Hunter - April 2010 - 71
American Hunter - April 2010 - Member’s Hunt
American Hunter - April 2010 - Cover3
American Hunter - April 2010 - Cover4
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