The mild winter and warm early spring may have Palmetto State fishermen in a tizzy, but you'll hear no complaints from turkey hunters, if their experience mirrors Mike Johnson's.

Johnson, the manager of the Clinton House Plantation in Laurens County, said the first week of the season in his neck of the woods has been nothing short of amazing.

"I've been working here five years, and this is the first time the turkeys have been 'right' at the start of the season," said Johnson, who has gobblers in literally every corner of the 2,000-acre property he manages.

 

"These birds have really worked well," he said. "Normally, they'd be henned up so bad you couldn't believe it. You could get a bird acting aggressive once in a while, but nothing like this year."

 

 

Johnson said hunters had taken seven gobblers in the first four days of the season at the Clinton House (864-833-0274), and this past Thursday, he called in a 20-pound, 4-ounce gobbler for wildlife photographer Brian Carroll of Mount Pleasant.

 

 

Killed at 3 p.m., the bird was the fourth they had sat down and worked that day, including a longbeard that walked out and strutted, spit and drummed just out of gun range for an hour, between 12:45 and 1:45.

 

 

Johnson's explanation? The early, warm spring has put hens on their nests a couple of weeks earlier than usual, so the gobblers are out cruising the woods and fields looking for any feathered female companionship and much more receptive to hunters' calls.

 

 

"We didn't' see a hen for the first three days of the season," said Johnson, who, along with Carroll and a third member of the hunting party saw only one hen on Thursday – and it had a beard – along with seven gobblers and four jakes.

 

 

"Every other season, they've had hens with them for the first two weeks," Johnson said. "Usually, it's from the middle to the end of the (month-long) season before they're acting like this, and by then, a lot of hunters think they don't have a chance after the first two weeks and have given up."

 

 

Johnson said that the "hen situation" was so pronounced that gobblers are already starting to gang back up in what he likened to a term normally used by deer hunters: bachelor groups.

 

 

"The first five gobblers that were killed here, all of them had another gobbler (or jake) come in with them when they were killed," Johnson said. "And when's the last time you saw six gobblers running together on April 5?"