Michael Chamberlain and Patrick Wightman

Show Notes

On this Episode of the How to Hunt Turkeys Podcast, Paul sits down with two of the brightest minds in the world of Wild Turkey biology. Michael Chamberlain and Patrick Wightman are professors and researchers at the University of Georgia. The Wild Turkey Doc and the Turkey Nerd break down some research projects and discuss population declines, weather patterns and the effects on Turkeys and Turkey behaviors during the Spring season. This is a wonderful episode gear towards all levels of Turkey Hunters. Understanding the habits of Turkeys will help you become a better hunter. Dr. Chamberlain has partnered with Mossy Oak to bring the Turkey hunter a wealth of knowledge a www.WildTurkeyLab.com

Paul is on the board for 2023, harvesting his first Osceola Turkey. Mississippi is open, Alabama starts soon. Buckle up kids. TURKEY SEASON IS HERE!!!

Show Transcript

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Welcome to the How to Hunt Turkeys podcast. I'm Paul Campbell. Join me as we dive into the world at Turkey Hunt. Every episode we'll explore the minds, the finest Turkey hunters around. We'll take a look at the people, the places, the tactics, the gear, and the culture that creates the mystique around America's favorite bird.

That's right. I said it. [00:01:00] Favorite bird, the Wild Turkey. Throw on your Turkey vest. Grab your box call. Let's talk some Turkey. The How To Hunt Purpose Podcast is brought to you by Go Wild. Visit Time to go wild.com or download the app on iOS or Android. Go Wild has all the gear. The Wild Turkey hunter needs camo clothes, hats, vest, Turkey calls, decoys, and everything else.

Sign up for a free account today and get $10 off your first order. Time to go wild.com. Wicked North gear. Delivering the very best gear for a life well lived in the great outdoors. From field kits and DIY tax derby solutions to hats, hoodies, stickers, and more. Visit wicked north gear.com. Welcome to another episode of the How to Hunt Turkeys podcast.

I'm your host, Paul Campbell. Thank you so much for clicking download. So I am in a hotel room here in central Florida today [00:02:00] recording this intro. I've made a dumb mistake. I left a lot of my good podcasting recording equipment. At home. So you're gonna have to deal with what I'm assuming is subpar audio for this intro.

I am going to keep it short. I've got a great show today. We've got Dr. Michael Chamberlain, Dr. Patrick Whiteman from the University of Georgia. Two unbelievable wild Turkey biologist. We are breaking down some really cool research that they have done on the wild. and the effects of weather breeding activities, just a ton of information.

This is all stuff that, that you listen to it and you can build a picture in your mind of what it takes to be a proficient wild Turkey hunter and all areas of the country and a lot of the things that, that you're gonna face. Just in, in regards to just kinda like the biological timeline of the Wild Turkey.

And what they do in certain certain times of the year. Really great really great show to you. So thanks to our partners here, this program. We've [00:03:00] got time to Go wild.com. Download their app on iTunes or Android. Talk about that. They got a lot of Turkey hunting stuff available for you.

Some really good stuff. They also have a really good podcast, uncensored on the Sportsman Nation. Check that out. Thanks to those guys and then wicked north gear.com. I, your boy got to use one of the Wicked North gear kill kits. This year or this week, man, got my first Turkey of the 2023 season. Also my first Osceola Turkey that I've ever had the chance to, to tangle with.

So an unbelievable Haun Checkout H two HT podcast on Instagram checkout Paul Campbell 3 22 on Instagram, Paul Campbell. on Go Wild. I put some really neat pictures up. Just an unbelievable hunt you can listen to. I just told the story on my other podcast, the oh two podcast. If you wanna listen to that, just check it out.

Just search Ohio Outdoors on the podcast. I tell the story a about my o ah, geez, Osceola hunt a couple of days ago. Also thanks to the guys man. You guys [00:04:00] are awesome. You're checking out Turkey season.com. You're buying products on there, you're interacting with me on on, on social media talking about it.

Thanks to everyone that have purchased an order. I got some really cool stuff headed your way. So just gimme a little, a few days. Lemme get home and get this stuff wrapped up. So thank you so much for your support. Turkey season.com. A lot of really neat stuff coming up in regards to content creation that's gonna be updated and refreshed here in the next couple of days.

And some more products are available. CD mouth calls, box calls, pod calls hunting blinds, newcomb hunting blinds are up there. We got wicked North gear. We got some cool goat row hats. Got some other cool hats and products for Turkey season. Come your way. So Turkey season.com.

Thank you so much for your support of that. Really appreciate you guys. Thank you so much. Enjoy this episode with Dr. Michael and Dr. Patrick all about wild Turkey biology. Thanks, guys.[00:05:00]

Wild Turkey research and population declines. I hear it every day. Just paint a. Freaking target on my chest and people were like, where are my turkeys? I don't know. I'm not a biologist. I'm an idiot that begs for money. But I listen to guys like you and I try to understand. what it is that, that you guys are trying to relay and I try to relay it to people.

So when you spoke there at the ro that morning session and the way that you communicated everything, all, the big question is why the population declined? And you just piece it apart. But what really made me feel good, and I talk about this a lot with people, is that this isn't, the sky's not falling.

This is opportunity. And people that are in business or in education, you have to seize opportunity and you have to really focus and be diligent and. And intentional effort. And I think you spoke about that really well. And it put my panic at ease, I guess just as a Turkey hunter.

I wanted to give you a big old hug when you walked off stage. I'm like, all right, just relax. Don't . I'm glad you did not do that. Yeah. Oh, you made me feel so bad. [00:06:00] That would've made it weird. Yeah. I know. No, I'm, yeah, I'm kidding. I wouldn't have done that. So just talk about, just and we'll just get the 800 pound, what's the saying?

The elephant in the room, the grill in the room, whatever it's . Get that sucker outta here. And if you would just explain that for the people listening to this about the population declines that we have and some of the reasons that, that researchers have found and the opportunity that we have as Turkey hunters and conservationists and researchers to, to really do good work going.

Yeah, the, what we've seen is, the eighties and nineties populations were being restored across a lot of areas and times were good and people were happy and states were liberalizing seasons and things appeared to be doing quite well. And in reality, as populations were being restored, we were already seeing.

declines in some areas and productivity. And what I mean by that is,[00:07:00] populations were increasing at the same time that they were becoming less productive. And what we saw was, and what we've seen across broad areas of the species range is populations reached a level, probably overshot carrying capacity a little bit, meaning.

there were more turkeys out there than the landscape could support. Populations started to decline and instead of them, those declines stopping at a point where things were still good. They've declined to a point where there's concern, and those declines are primarily driven by declines in production.

We're just not making as many birds as we were historically. data across a number of all of the southeastern states actually clearly shows that we're just not producing the number of birds that we were. And at the same time, you've seen all of these other [00:08:00] changes to the landscape. Loss of hardwood forest, loss of habitat in general degradation of habitat that's existing.

So in other words, the habitat's just not in some ways as good, quote unquote good as it. decades ago, we've seen changes to predator communities collapse, the fur market disease issues that have popped up. Like I talked about at the convention, turkeys are pretty unique. They, it's the only game bird in North America that, at least in the lower 48 that we hunt during their breeding season.

So you wrap all of that together. There haven't been a lot of things positive from a Turkey's perspective over the last few decades and now you fast forward to where we are today and a lot of agencies recognize these declines and they're willing to spend the money to do the research, to try to address, what are the underlying factors influencing these populations and what [00:09:00] can we do about it?

And that's what I've seen in the. handful of years is just this dramatic increase in research. And like I said at the convention, you, there's more research being done on turkeys now than at any time in my career. And I'm in my, this is the 30th year I've studied wild turkeys. And there's more work going on now than there ever has been in my career.

And that. that just speaks volumes to me as to how relevant this bird is and how the kind of, the groundswell of concern that you've seen in the Turkey hunting and Turkey management community has prompted agencies to prioritize the bird, and that's a positive. Patrick, what do you think drives that research increase?

The, as Mike said, just the concern with the population and where it's at today. The state agencies are feeling the pressure of. Allowing hunters to have opportunity, but also making sure that, we're sustaining wild turkeys as a [00:10:00] resource moving forward. So they're, they're vested in this bird and, they're essentially, most all the projects that we work on are through state agencies funded.

And so they're doing this research to help, gain information. eventually used to, figure out if they need to make regulation changes or if things are fine, or what they can do as a state agency to help the bird. So when with the relationship that universities and researchers have with state agencies I don't wanna pick on this state, but Alabama, it's some point just in the recent past it was five turkeys and then it's four.

So it, it seems like a lot of state agencies are slow to react because of hunting. , excuse me, pressure from hunters. , you're, there's a risk there's a fear of if they take it away, we'll never get it back. And so as researchers, when you go to state agencies and you go to and you go to just the public and you say, okay, this is the data that we have.

And you guys see a need or you see a path, a reaction, if you will. How do you deal [00:11:00] with that when state agencies are slow to react or hunters are aggressive to what you are trying to say based off of the research that has been collected across the country? Yeah, it's a, that's a, that's always a contentious issue, from our perspective.

All we do is collect data. at the request of the agencies. So we work under contracts that are between, say Georgia dnr, excuse me and the and the university. And we collect the information that they deem relevant and we provide the information to them. And then they decide, they go from there.

We don't, we have no say in regulations changes. what occurs on state or public lands? We just provide the information and the agencies react. I'd be lying if I said it's not frustrating at times that, you provide information and sometimes there is a kind of a slow reaction to it. [00:12:00] But, agencies are in a really, they're in a tricky situation because they're trying to.

they're trying to please everyone, if you will. They're trying to make sure that we can hunt and that we can be successful and we can hunt the way that we've hunted historically. And they're also trying to ensure sustainable populations of turkeys or whatever species that are out there.

And so they're walking this tightrope all the time where they've got. , they have us and me as a Turkey hunter saying, Hey, I want to be able to be out there when the birds are gobbling and I want to harvest as many of 'em as I have in the past. And then on the flip side, the agency's going the data suggests there aren't as many of them out there, and so we're going to have to make these changes.

Understanding that some of you are not going to be happy about it. . That's just the realities that agencies work under, and I don't envy them at all. Yeah, they, [00:13:00] it's a, it's contentious and it always will be because when you enter opinions and you enter human needs and human wants that , it's tough.

It's tough for sure. Yeah. I didn't realize how agencies work. and the pressure that they're under from hunters until I started a podcast two years ago and I started interviewing and the DNR representatives in my home state, Ohio, and talking to them and managing hunter emotions is a massive part of their job.

And Patrick, I don't know if you knew that you were signing up for that when when you dove into this, so stay on the research side. But yeah, it's crazy when I see. In, in, in that word emotion. That's a very impactful word, for this. Kudos to you guys for, trying to separate that.

And I understand that it's gotta be frustrating when you say, okay, hey, here's a cl, here's a clear issue, here's a clear direction that we need to take. And people are like, [00:14:00] eh, the Facebook people got all fired up, so we're just gonna, keep moving. So that's tough, man. That's tough to. Patrick, talk to me about some of the work that, that you have going on actively.

And then there's a research project that you did that I wanna, I really wanna pick apart for selfish reasons. Sure. . Okay. Yeah. So currently I'm a postdocing with Dr. Chamberlain. So I've got my hands in little bit of everything that, that he's got going on, but specifically I'm tasked.

Analyzing data for the South Carolina study, which is at srs, which is our un hunted population. If you've seen Mike talk about it on social media. And then I'm also helping out with the gobbling research that we've partnered with Alabama and Auburn, Turkey for tomorrow. I'm helping analyze some of that data.

And then also assisting with the projects here in Georgia that we've been, doing since two 15. And I started here doing my PhD work in two 18 and just finished last spring working on the Georgia project. [00:15:00] And then before that, during my master research, I was at the center in South Carolina, did my master's research on turkeys.

Turkeys there. So yeah, a lot of my research has been focused on male behavior and gobbling activity and how we as humans influence that or other environmental variables in predation. So yeah, that's currently I'm working on a survival paper looking at harvest rates across.

Really all of our study sites in the southeast, it's about five, five to 600 birds. Oh, wow. But yeah, so we got a lot going on. It's hard to just describe, a handful of things. Yeah. But that's kinda the, 3000 levels. When you and I were emailing back and forth, you said you'd been climbing trees all week to, to put up, now is that is that the Aus, is that what That is?

The, what is it? The autonomous recording units, right? Correct. So yeah, those are just sound recorders that we're putting on the landscape, and we get those out the last week of February, and our data collection window starts March 1st, and we run that.[00:16:00] The month of June. Yeah, right now it's we've got all these field crews and other masters and PhD students, technicians out in the field, but they're also wrapping up trapping season, and so they're super busy.

So sometimes they call me in for backup to run out and get these units up and help turkeys. Very good. So I, I wanna ask just a really basic question, and that is, why do Turkeys gobble? Yeah that's a great question. And one we, one we talk about. Really, turkeys begin gobbling in the spring as daylight increases, testosterone rises.

They start competing with con specifics for breeding opportunities. And gobbling is a courtship part of a courtship. We know we're used when we talk about courtships, we think of visual ones, strutting. It's an auditory courtship that these birds do to secure breeding opportunities with females.

So yeah, secure breeding opportunities. Compete with males and establish the, their dominance in the hierarchy. Now are the two main reasons will Tom's gobble year round? Yeah they do. And we [00:17:00] get that all the time. That's January and I heard, I was out in the duck woods and heard turkeys gobbling and I think that kinda.

Goes maybe to the, they wake up one morning, a bunch of hands are cutting, or something's got 'em going. Maybe it's a nice day and they start gobbling. But what we see in totality is that the real increases in the spring. Sure. Now what? What is drumming? That's just another way for them to say, Hey, come look at me.

Yeah. It's just another auditory queue that they use. . Now, the mechanism itself, I guess there's Mike, you can, talk about drumming, but a little bit of debate on actually how it occurs in, in the bird. Yeah, that's a hotly debated topic on social media. If you say, Hey they drum.

And some people say it's it's air moving across their feathers. And other people will say it's a, an actual vocalization that they make, they chuff the air and. . And honestly, I don't think we, I know we don't fully understand what that, where that sound [00:18:00] entirely comes from, but maybe we shouldn't, maybe that's just something sexy and romantic that we sh you know.

Yeah. Shouldn't be an unknown. But it is really an interesting thing, particularly when you start talking to people that can't. , and people like me that I can hear drumming forever and I can feel it. And then, I've hunted with people that are like, I have no idea what you're talking about,

Yeah. I can't hear it at all. Yeah I've heard it just a very few times in my life and the first time I heard it, I didn't know what it was. I had just, the first couple of years in Turkey Woods and I turned to see what it was. It just, there was a tom just right there, just drum.

And I it's such a, experience, but I don't hear it often, so I don't know if it's something that , that the turkeys just, do they do it all the time in the woods or is it just because I can't hear that frequency. I guess we think it's we think it's probably associated with the hen is close and therefore [00:19:00] there's no need to continue gobbling.

You can just, make this very subtle cue. tells her where you are. I've, and I've said this in other podcasts, I misjudge where the sound is coming from quite a bit, and I'm usually off by 30 or 40 degrees. I think it's over here to the left that, 300 degrees and in reality he's due west of me type of thing, but I have hunted with people sitting on the same tree.

I remember this one bird years ago in Louisiana. I was like, this bird is right beside us to the left. And the guy was hunting with, he was like, what are you talking about? And I'm trying to whisper. I'm like, this bird is literally on top of us. Don't move. Don't move. And do you see him? I said, no, I hear him drumming.

He goes, what? I don't hear anything. Shut up. Don't move. . And the bird actually ended up spooking off of us, but. . Yeah. He had no idea. He couldn't, yeah, he couldn't hear it. Feel it, anything. [00:20:00] That's wild. Patrick, I wanna just circle back to something that, that you said about the increase in gobbling activity that you guys have seen.

And it's based on daylight hours increasing. Here in Ohio, we had three days in the seventies last. The daffodils are up. The maple trees are starting to bud and it's February, it's the end of February. That's never happened in my lifetime. So does that doesn't kickstart the gobbling activity or the breeding cycles for turkeys and in these northern states when we get weird influxes of sun or warm temperatures?

No. So I, we see very short window in terms of variation when reproductive activities. Cuz we'll get really nice days into Southeast too, across these studies. And what we see is that temperature and weather might shift what we breeding opportunity, with the breeding window, but it's only going to be by about a week or so.

Like we see very little variation into when breeding occurs and therefore when gobbling happens. But with that being said, I was in the field a couple days ago here in [00:21:00] Georgia and turkeys. Turkeys were gobbling and we also had extreme. Extremely warm weather. So I think that it influences, it might impact how much they gobble early in the season, if it's nice and sunny out versus if it's cold.

But in terms of that, I would say the peak that we would see, the rise, the true rise in gobbling during the spring. I think that weather has an influence but very minimal. It might be seven to 10 days, but it's not gonna be two to three. . Okay. And if you think about that makes sense.

This bird, like other species, they're wired to reproduce at the same time every year. Variations of a week that's one thing. But their ecology is not driven around hey, it's warm this spring, let's go ahead and breed a month earlier. You know that just doesn't occur.

They're wired. To breed at the same time each year. So to Patrick's point, from our most dramatic, one, one end to the other, we may literally see seven days in [00:22:00] breeding activity from one year to the next. And when you plot five or six, or eight or 10 years data, you basically see that it, the noise disappears and it's all pretty much within about a week across.

Yeah. Yeah, that's, it's just like the whitetail rut here in Ohio. It's the same, it's the same time every year. It could be five degrees or 85 degrees, and those deer are still, it's like you said, it's daylight driven. So that's the other kind of and this is once again a selfish question.

That's the great thing about having a podcast is I can ask selfish questions for myself. And it's an old wives tale that you hear Turkey hunters talk about. And Patrick, I went through your research. I didn't say anything about it. The turkeys don't gobble on an east wind. Is that true? Oh boy. I don't, I'll be honest with you, I don't know if I've heard that one.

Really? Oh man. I hear it all the time with these old photos, Goble on an east wind. So you're in the northeast with an east wind, huh? Yeah. I don't know if that would be related to storms systems historically. We did find in that paper, that its barometric pressure [00:23:00] rises, which essentially is associated when you get a storm front that's leaving.

Vice versa when it's coming in, that gobbling decreases. But no I looked at wind speed, but not direction. That's one. Yes. You know what? Do it over Mike. Let him do it over. It's, throw it out it's wrong. East wind. . I have a buddy that, this is not related to turkeys at all, but I have a buddy who's, he's a diehard duck hunter in Louisiana and.

to say Hiss Cajun would be an understatement. . And he talks like this, bruh. And he would tell you that he always says East is least. And I asked him years ago, I was like, what? What are you talking about? He goes, ducks don't fly on an east wind. And I asked him if he, why would you say that?

He says, cause I've been doing this 50 years, bro. So hey, maybe there's something to it with the Turkey world. But he's Duke's convinced. From a duck hunting perspective, east is least, yeah, that's, maybe there is [00:24:00] something to it. I, who knows. I know. So what biologically what happens in a Turkey, in a male Turkey that he's just okay, it's time to go, time to start ripping, gobbles every chance I get.

Yeah. I think it's that increase in testosterone as we talked about, as it relates to day length, and then as females become receptive, , when I try to talk about gobbling chronology, I think it's best to describe what we see on our un hunted site. Cause we can talk about how we influence the bird, but essentially what it looks like is a bell.

We call it in, in the science world we call it a bell curve. But if you just, imagine the shape of a bell. What we see in the southeast is, once we start March 1st, The gobbling activity kind of rises up, and then by about the middle of March, what is that you're probably halfway up that bell curve, and then it peaks around the second week in April.

You'd be on top of that, that bell curve. And what we found is that peak is pretty associated with 10 days before.[00:25:00] Incubation or mean incubation day when hens are sitting on nest, and that also is associated with the initiation of Lang. So what we see is a peak and gobbling during Lang. And this is likely when males or females are most receptive.

It benefits them to continue to breed when they're laying, so that they know that their eggs are fertilized. And then from a male perspective, the odds of you being represented in the clutch is probably. Tied to, how frequently you're breeding her during that, that laying sequence.

And then what we see is it kind starts to go down after that. So you kinda go down the backside of that bell curve, and what we see here is that by about middle of May, you're probably halfway down that bell curve then things tailor out. So that's kinda what gobbling chronology looks like as a whole.

And like I said, testosterone rising in males is kinda what drives that. And then receptivity of females. So they wanna be gobbling and for, breeding opportunities when she's most receptive. [00:26:00] So Mike, I've got. , the most common question that I get when I bring, new hunters into the, to the pursuit of Turkey hunting.

And if you go out and see the woods two or three weeks before season, you got turkeys everywhere. They're gobbling, they're fired up, and then season opens. And there's nothing, there's no gobbling on it to the day. And then, and so people are never like where'd they go? I have no idea, man.

It's, it is just part of Turkey hunting. So why is that? Why did tur, why don't turkey's go. All the time. Is it just they get bored, they move? What are the factors that, that kinda affect that gobbling activity? One thing is, we've clearly seen that on hunted sites, that there is a, an obvious decline in gobbling activity once hunting starts.

Part of that is just vocal birds are being shot. The other part of that is the bird remaining birds are changing their behavior. In response to that, that hunting activity and hunting pressure, and they just gobble less, we, and we see [00:27:00] that in particular, most of the gobbling is associated with them on the roost or immediately after they fly down.

And that makes sense because, gobble at the point in your range that you feel the most secure, which is a tree. And then once you hit the ground, Gobble less because gobbling increases your risk. So that signal is very clear on all of our study sites that are hunted. And to Patrick's point, the bell curve that you see on the non hunted populations, what happens on our hunted populations is you get about towards the top of that.

And it dramatically drops off. So you don't see that slow decline in gobbling, you see this more precipitous rapid decline in gobbling. Still, some days, you'll see an uptick in gobbling activity, but the general trend is as the season [00:28:00] progresses, verbs are gobbling less and less.

And that's just a response to, to risk that we are putting on the landscape. And Patrick, in your research paper the gobbling activity, what was it, 75% of the gobbles that you guys captured recorded were within what, the first hour and a half? Yeah, 30 minutes before sunrise. Till 30 minutes after sunrise.

That's when, yeah. 73% I think was the exact number, but yeah. Of God. . That's impressive. So they hit the ground and that's just a reaction to the potential of a predator, right? That's why they stop. Yeah. I think that's part of it. They're safer on the limb.

And then also, if you read back to the literature idea that on the limb they can from away too. So it's a safety thing. And they can project their sound from longer, longer away. And then, they get on the ground and they don't wanna gobble as much if they don't feel, quite as safe.

And then also a lot of times I think they, they meet up with hens and, in the presence of a hen. [00:29:00] How much do you need to go unless you have, you have someone competing with you nearby. Yeah. Now there was a study, Mike, that I think that you did a couple of years ago. And you had a tom that had a GPS tracker and you had a hunter.

You would give them GPS trackers and you watched the movement and it was really interesting seeing turkey's reactions to hunting pressure and how close that they would get to the hunter. Silent, no gobbling. No drumming and the hunter never saw him. So when. when we enter the woods as hunters.

We, I, like you said, we dramatically upset the peace and balance, in the woods. And they changed their behavior. So when, as a hunter, like when we're out calling and we're hunting these turkeys and they move away with hens, do what was the, what The data show that, how those turkeys reacted, after that kind of, that, that initial fly down with hunting pressure in there on, on that research study that.

Yeah, the take home there was, they were all different. They, there was, [00:30:00] you couldn't really pigeonhole birds into, they all do this or they all do that. They were all kind of individuals and how they responded to pressure. We had birds that would hit for the hills and travel a mile or more that day that they encountered a hunter.

We, we. , we had Toms that literally hunkered down and spent the entire hunting season within, an area where hunters were constantly accessing their home range and they survived that and everything in between. We, any kind of scenario that you can think of, we saw it, situations where birds would get fairly close to hunters.

Certainly almost within, certainly within eye. The hunter never knew they were there, never heard the bird. We had situations where we would have birds that would approach where the hunter had been hours later in the day, suggesting that clearly he heard the [00:31:00] calls coming from that location, but either he had some other agenda on his mind at that time or.

or skeptical of what he was hearing, and he decided to go back to that location later in the day. The kind of the take home, which has been found in a lot of other species recent with recent research on how they respond to hunting pressure is there's no average Tom, they're all individual. They have different strategies, they have different ways of dealing with risk, and that just speaks to how, and if you think about it as a Turkey,

We see that every day. We see that every Turkey season. That, damn, I thought he was going to do that, and he did something else, or I thought he was going left and he went right or, there's just, it's so hard to predict what they're going to do because they're highly individuals, when it comes to how they deal with pressure.

Yeah. I've said this a ton. I feel like a wild Turkey can exercise or does exercise free will more than any other animal[00:32:00] in the woods. They're just like a little aba and with deer, they're a little more regimented in their movements and. I hate to use the word predictable, but that's it.

They're a little more predictable in the areas that they want to be and how they're gonna move. Like you said, a Turkey hit the ground and it may go a mile from that roost tree. That's oh man. It's kinda frustrating as a hunter, especially when you hear 'em like, oh yeah they circle back and what's think about deer like during, if you're hunting deer and I'm a fanatical deer.

when you're hunting. I can tell for the people listening to this, there's, I don't know how many antlers are behind you, but you got I like the shed hunt too. Yeah. Yeah. Outside of the rud, if you're a deer hunter, you're hunting, travel routes or food, and you can, to some degree predict, your success through time.

Once a rut hits, , it can be a free for all and turkeys it, you're hunting their rut the entire season. , you're not hunting an animal that is geared towards food resources. You're hunting an animal that's geared towards [00:33:00] reproduction and survival. That's it. They're trying to make a living and not die.

Yeah. While doing it. And reproduction is what drives their ecology for a male in the spring. So that's why they're so unpredictable. You're basically trying to predict an animal who's trying to reproduce and not die while doing it. You would expect their behavior to be more erratic, than Yeah.

Talking about a loose to a food source. Yeah. Talking about a loose cannon, right? Yeah. Yeah. Patrick, what were some of the, let's talk about like the actual weather patterns. So you, you said that, on, on the low pressure storm fronts moving in, that's suppressed gobbling activity. On the flip side, good weather coming in or on the back side, I guess the, the backside list.

What was the what? The data. . Yeah so there we were talking about the barometric pressure itself and what to note with barometric pressure was, it wasn't, how high barometric pressure was or how low it was. It was the change in barometric pressure. It could be high for three, four days and we didn't see a relationship with any increases in gobbling [00:34:00] activities.

When it was really low and then it shot up, that change was high and that is associated with. Typically storm fronts and stuff like that. But then other than that, we saw some pretty obvious things. Rain and wind, negatively influence gobbling activity and. In the paper we mentioned that obviously our ability to hear gobbling during those situations is also less, but you have to about it in terms of you biologically, if this bird is using this vocalization to grab attention from females and then also, Doing it in a way where it's trying to not get predated.

If it's really windy or super rainy out, that sound isn't gonna travel very far and it's probably not too effective. So it doesn't really make sense, to just gobble in, in those conditions. And then lastly, what we saw is that I think high temperatures decreased gobbling activity here in, in the southeast, and that's once temperatures got above about 80 degrees.

We [00:35:00] saw a relationship. Gobbling activity declining? Was that just conserving energy or was it, was there any Yeah, we have hypothesis as to why that is. But yeah, biologically, I think when it's just really hot, these birds aren't into ex, the last thing on their mind is expending a lot of energy gobbling also, there is a little bit of, it coincides with time of year here in, in the Southeast.

So as we talked about before, you're kinda. Climbing down that bell curve when temperatures are getting really hot here. So it's likely a combination of the two. It, it's probably, we it's hard for us as researchers to, to tease that aspect out which is important to know with the weather stuff as a whole, so it definitely causes some day-to-day variation within that bell. But what we see pretty clearly is that first reproductive timing of reproduction influences it then US harvest. And then weather comes in there and it's much more at a finer scale. [00:36:00] Yeah. That's interesting.

I think just as a hunter, my least favorite weather to hunt is wind, drives me nuts. And then rain. No one likes to be wet and then turkeys are just ugly when they're wet. And Mike you did a real nice Instagram post about that the other day. Just how they're just gross looking when they've been getting rained on for two days.

I guess that's just stay outta the woods. That's for me. Unless it's the only day to hunt, then you're gonna deal with it. I guess so, yeah. I don't even wanna shoot a bird when they're wet. They're the ugliest things. The iridescence is gone. It's just, it takes it all, it takes the joy away, it does. It really, a lot of it to me is just sitting there with the bird after the fact and just marveling at how just stunning they are. And when they're wet, it's just like gross, . Yeah. It's just, they just, they're not to me, they're just not themselves. And I don't even hunt if it starts raining.

It's this, the truth. If it starts raining hard, I just l I quit. Yeah, I carry rain gear in my vest, a light jacket and some pants just in case, [00:37:00] just to keep myself comfortable on the way back to the truck. I usually will just pack it up if it, yeah, if it starts raining. That's a, I remember vividly the first wild Turkey that I killed, and I walked up to it, and I just looked at it and it was just I couldn't believe the iridescence and I, it was amazing.

I didn't know what to do. I fi, it took me three years to kill my first Turkey. I just ran up and I just stood there and I looked at it. I didn't know what to say. I couldn't talk, I couldn't even think. I just sat there and I just touched this tur, this Turkey. It was just a little tiny Jake and I was, I'll never forget that moment.

Do you guys have just, you said you just sit there and you just absorb the hunt, you think about it. Do you have little, post hunt rituals that that you partake in? Dave Owen smokes the cigar and memorializes that, that hunt in his mind? Do you guys do something like,

I don't smoke cigars or do anything, like that. But, and I don't really have a ritual per se, but I will usually, [00:38:00] unless I'm absolutely forced to leave, I usually will sit there for quite some time and just reflect on, what happened. And I'm a, I. , I'm a goober nerd, so I sit there and pick their feathers apart and, look at their legs and their feet and their bills and their head and their, and I'm looking for I'm rubbing on 'em to figure out, injuries, anything, I'm I, it takes me a while to get my ducks in a row, if you will, sitting there and, yeah.

And of course I'm about to go buy a new phone because my phone is broken, but when I go to the Verizon store it, and they copy your pictures from one device to the other and they have to upload it to the cloud, it takes an hour because I have literally thousands of pictures of turkeys that are the same pictures over and over.

A picture of their back. A picture of the tail, a picture of the leg, a picture of. Because I just can't get enough. It's it doesn't do the bird justice. You could, you just can't take enough pictures [00:39:00] to try to re, to provide you with a way to reflect back on the opportunity that you had to harvest that bird.

That's the way, that's the way I look at it. So I just keep sitting there taking pictures of the same thing over and over, because I can't get enough. Yeah, one of the, one of the turkeys that I was fortunate to harvest it was just river bottom, it was swampy. And as I was walking in that morning, there was just the.

had stumbled across this massive, just flat of the blue bells in full bloom. And I'm like, I can't walk through these. This is gorgeous. So I go all the way around, I set up and I watch this Turkey walk right through those blue bells, and I'll never forget that. It's just, it's just burned into my mind.

, and I just, same thing. You just sit there and you soak it all in. I'm gonna start picking the birds apart. I'm gonna, I'm gonna get a little more my, my background is in turf grass science. I worked on a golf course for 15 years, so I would, every time I. A blade of grass that looks weird.

I'd pick it up and I'd look at it and put it in my pocket and my wife would do the laundry. And there's just like these giant [00:40:00] clumps of grass blades, and bugs and all this stuff in my pocket. So I understand the, that kind of that. You just wanna pick it apart and inspect and learn and dive into it.

So that's really neat. Patrick, how many what do you got planned for hunting season this year? Oh yeah. Hunting season's always interesting. What I have to deal with is keeping Mike happy, and also spending as much time in the woods as I possibly can. And now, I've got an eight month son at home, so it's also keeping my wife happy.

So it's . Yeah. I'm taking it from all angles. This hunting season's gonna look a little different than it has in the past. But I'll be hunting in Alabama, some Georgia. I typically get up to Indiana every year. I enjoy hunting there. And then I'll probably sprinkle in some other states if the wife will allow, and Mike's not screaming at me.

Where, no don't worry him. Don't let him . I'll say it's easy to get away with. Cause there's a little secret. Mike's not really found in the office during Turkey season either. So easy come and go. So is that, so is [00:41:00] Hunting, does that classify as work Mike for Patrick ? The way I look at it on the spot, you can't be you can't be an expert on this bird if you don't hunt them.

That's my opinion. Yeah. You, there's, just so you know, we spend all year thinking about this bird working towards what we're doing, and if. If you work to the extent that you don't get out in the spring woods and enjoy this bird, then you're missing out on something that's important to you know who you are as a person.

Yeah, I don't ask Patrick where he is going in the spring. , but don't let him fool you. This is not a sob story. There, there will be hunting that is, that's occurring. Yeah. Patrick just put in a budget request for him to, for you to come hunt turkeys with me in Ohio and we'll we'll do an inspection on the research project here or whatever.

Yeah, that, that sounds good. I love getting back up to the northeast. I grew up in western New York, so that's where I cut my teeth chasing. [00:42:00] Very good. Now, Mike, what, do you have any cool hunts planned? I do. I, I will be all over this spring. I've gotten the opportunity finally to go on a Gould's hunt.

I've never done that. I'm really super excited about that. I'm blessed that I get invites to go to places and so I'll be hunting in a couple of states this year. I have my routine every year. . Of course I'll hunt here around my house, but honestly, I don't hunt much here in Georgia.

Maybe, certainly no more than five days the entire season. I travel and I l I like to travel, so I go to Texas every year. I go to South Dakota every year because I just, I love hunting out in the prairies. And yeah, so I'll be making my tour and seeing different places and meeting people.

I, that that's my thing, man. I don't have to be successful at all. I just like seeing different places that turkeys live. I think that gives you a lot of [00:43:00] perspective on how adaptable that bird is, because if you travel this country and just look at the places this bird lives, you really, I hope, get an appreciation for just.

how plastic the bird is, they can make due in some really challenging landscapes, which and hunting those places is, is a lot of fun. Yeah. I did an interview yesterday with Jay Scott and he does a lot of Goulds. , that's who I'm hunting with. Yeah. Okay. Excellent. Great guy.

And he was explaining just some of those, just like you said, some of the environments and how to hunt and roost, turkeys out west and I've never. west of the Mississippi River. I'm going to Montana for the first time this year, but I'm just visualizing the landscape that these turkeys live in and as an eastern hunter.

It's really it's hard to imagine that , the turkeys thrive in, in these environments out there. It is neat to think about. You're, you're absolutely right. You're talking about just being plastic and being able. and mold into any [00:44:00] environment that they're in.

It's, it is impressive. It really is. Yeah, look at you're going to Montana. Look at the conditions that those birds face in that climate. Just look this year at the snowfall and the cold that those birds have experienced and they thrive in it. Yeah. And it just, they yet you turn around and think about the conditions that a Gould's face.

and some of the southern latitudes and those mountain ranges that they live in. It's crazy if you really, if you just sit and think about it the difference is these birds experience, think about osceolas and some of the climates and some of the conditions that they live in, how wet their environment is.

It's it. Just speaks to how adaptable the bird is. Yeah. I'm doing my first Florida Turkey. It's a big year for me and I, one of the areas we're hunting, a guy talked about the birds living in the swamp and they just, they're in water a massive amount of the day, every day. And that's just amazing how.[00:45:00]

y Yeah. You just think about it. It really is. It's just, they're just so cool. There's such neat little animals. Neat little critters. And thank you to you two for all of the work that you do to prop up, the populations and really understand Turkey hunters. Patrick, I'm gonna need that east wind study.

Here soon. So I'll start, I can plug it into the data, but , I, I don't think you're gonna see anything . What? So what, there's gotta be some other wives tales that you guys have heard. And I just, today I was looking at your post on Twitter Mike and people are like what about, and they're asking all these questions.

I'm like, dude, quick Google search, Google Scholar. There is a trove of information for you guys. Do you guys hear just the what's some of the most ridiculous things that you hear from Turkey hunters? You're. Oh God. I think one of the craziest ones that I hear is this notion that Tom's will go destroy nest of hens.

Oh, that Patrick, for you guys, listen I mean is literally is jaw just literally hit the floor. I get [00:46:00] it. Every year. Every year I will get questions about. . I've heard that, that these gobbler will run around and trample nest and destroy, nest and tear up the eggs. And I just have to step back and calmly and professionally say no, that there's zero evidence to suggest that occurs.

But that's one of the craziest ones I get. Yeah. And there are many, but that's one of, that's one of the craziest. Yeah. Patrick, what about you? There's gotta be something that you're. Your head just explodes when someone says it. Yeah. Yeah. It's hard to pin one thing. One thing that we get all the time is the aging birds by spur length.

That one kinda always chuckle with that one talk to, they'll show me the morning. They're all happy about their bird. They're like, check this, this is definitely a three-year-old or a four year old that's there's really no way of knowing that. I hate to get all scientific on the people that are , enjoying their hunt.

But that one gets me quite often. Yeah. So how do you age a Turkey [00:47:00] scientifically? Not just by, he's got a big beard. Yeah so scientifically speaking, we only really know whether they're a juvenile or adult. And that's just looking at the barring on the primary w So on an adult, the white goes all the way down on the 10th primary, and on a juvenile that stops short.

And then obviously with males, there's other in indicators, the tail. Length there, a couple inches. And, but yeah that's one of the, true frustrating things I think as a researcher is not knowing exactly how old the old bird is. I, yeah I wish we did, we have some birds that we catch as juveniles and then recapture, and we can get an idea of known age, but it's so small of a sample, it's less than 5% of the birds that that we catch yeah. It's frustrating, but you can't, Mike, you can talk about it. You can't radio, you can cut the, yeah, you can radiograph, radiograph them. But at the end of the day, even that, the research where they radiograph spurs, other than [00:48:00] being able to say this bird is most likely a two or a three year old, there was still about 25% error even then.

Wow. It. It's just hard because, spur length is not just, it's not something that just standardize across birds and regions and subspecies. It just, there's so much that goes into spur length and I guess at the end of the day, and I, look, I lived through the period of, and I'm not going to lie when I walk up to a bird and he's got a set of absolute, spikes, I.

Hell yeah. Yeah. I'm happy, man. That is awesome. But I don't, I'm not there anymore. I still, it's cool, to shoot a bird with super long spurs and think, yeah, that's probably an older bird, but my own data shows that it could be a two year old with an inch and a quarter spurs.

Yeah. We've seen that. So I just ignore it now. , probably the most memorable, oh, it was the most [00:49:00] memorable bird I shot last year. I called him the spinner. He would strut in these tight little spin pinwheel circles. And he was beautiful. This is in Nebraska. He had the shortest spurs of any time I've ever killed.

I've killed Jake's that were just about as long as his spurs. And that was the most memorable hunt I had last year. Just because of how he behaved. Yeah. I think it's one of the beautiful things about Turkey hunting and kind of the culture that surrounds Turkey hunting is that we don't a lot of us, a lot of Turkey hunters, we don't fall into the same pitfalls that deer hunting or elk cunning does, where it's success is measured by inches.

How many points, how many, how big was this deer? How big was this elk, for me, If a turkey's gobbling hard and he wants to dance, and he comes in, he is a mature bird game on, right? I don't even look at this bird. I've, I literally never gauged a Turkey like I, you just look at, I'm gonna shoot that Turkey if I get a chance.

And that's all the effort that I put into it. And I hope that, a lot of people [00:50:00] listen in the show. They hear what you just said it do, it doesn't matter if it's a mature Turkey, if that's your definition of success. Do it, get after it, so for sure. Yeah. Good stuff.

Gentlemen, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it and good luck to both of you and thanks for all the work that you do in, in the name of wild turkeys and the conservation of those birds. Yeah. It's good to be with you. Yeah, thank.