The beautiful glisten in the stars had begun to fade in the clear grayish-blue sky. A heavy blanket of dew soaked the grasses in the fields. The hymns of songbirds and the sweet aroma of dogwoods blooming filled the chilly April air as I slipped up the ridge to listen for the sound that is all too familiar to that time of year. The true heart beat of spring.
A thunderous gobble from a loud-mouthed longbeard blasted through the trees in the woods just below the ridge where I was standing. My heart jumped into my throat. Two more gobbles rang out as I decided to attempt to enter the woods. I ducked under an old rickety fence on the property and slowly moved into the middle of the woods.
A booming gobble erupted out of a tree top just 40 yards in front of me. I knew I couldn’t move any closer. I scanned through the young forage above me to locate the bird, but was unable to find him. I decided to sit down to avoid being seen.
After what seemed like an hour of silence, the gobbler sounded off again. I had my Quaker Boy ‘Old Raspy Hen’ diaphragm call in my mouth and I started to call out a few soft series of yelps. I scratched and thrashed the leaves around me to imitate the sound of a hen looking for food. That was all the bird could take.
The gobbler burst out of the tree and hit the ground below like an anchor was tied to his legs. His chest puffed out and is beard swayed back and forth as he walked straight toward where I was sitting. I lined up the beads on my 835 Mossberg Ulti-mag with the gobbler’s red, white and blue head. He waddled around a small sapling and I squeezed the trigger. It was the perfect end to another action-packed turkey season in Kentucky.
Hunters across the state of Kentucky experienced record-breaking success during the 2010 spring turkey season. Hunters harvested 36,097 birds last spring, completely obliterating the previous record set in 2009 when hunters took 29,007 turkeys, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Web site. That renders an unbelievable 7,090 bird increase between years.
Over the last 13 years Kentucky has seen an average harvest increase of 8,620 turkeys since the 1997 season, when hunters took just 16,605 birds. During that 13 year span, eight of the seasons yielded a spike in harvest numbers. This consistent increase proves that the overall quality of turkey hunting in the Bluegrass State will continue to improve.
According to data collected by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources turkeys have had excellent hatches for the last three years. The 2008 hatch was reported to be the best hatch ever recorded and the large quantity of 2-year-old birds was the reason for the record breaking harvest numbers in 2010.
The 2011 spring turkey season dates in Kentucky are April 16-May 8. The special youth only weekend hunt will be on April 2-3.
The birds remaining from the 2008 hatch are now three years old and the birds from 2009 will two years old. These strong hatches indicate that the spring of 2011 should be full of heart-pounding action. Hunters in Kentucky should be getting pumped for some up-close and personal interaction with loud-mouthed thunder chickens.