The first week of the turkey season was disturbingly quiet in the Francis Marion National Forest, but that has changed dramatically late last week. Guide Chris Orvin spends a lot of time in the national forest hunting longbeards, and he said that normally the first week of the April season is great, but that’s not been the case this year. However, things appear to be getting better.
“Normally the woods are alive with booming gobbles all though the swamp early in the season,” Orvin said. “But this year, I think because of the long, cold winter, things seem way behind schedule. We’d hear a few gobbles on the roost, but then every gobbler we saw would have multiple hens and be very difficult to work. And we’d near no gobbles past 8 a.m.
“But a big change took place in the last couple days, and on Thursday I hunted with a client, and we killed a big gobbler that had no hens (and) was gobbling extremely well,” Orvin said. “We first saw him with another gobbler, and there was only one hen with the two longbeards.
“We are now seeing other gobblers with only one or no hens, and more important, we’re now frequently seeing hens moving alone. What that typically means is the hens are breaking away from the gobblers. We’re now finally striking gobblers mid-morning and mid-day and getting them to respond, and that didn’t happen the first week of the season.”
Orvin (843-509-2306) also works at Angler Sporting Goods in Moncks Corner, where hunters are coming by, reporting the same thing.
“It’s happening all over down here, not just on the National Forest but on private lands as well,” Orvin said. “Hunters are now, almost overnight, getting a lot more positive response from gobblers. For whatever reason the first week was tough and I don’t think will be the best hunting for 2014. I think the mid-to-late season is going to be outstanding.”
Orvin said the bird he called in on the last week came off the roost, the first time that’s happened this year for him because so many hens have been close to the gobblers. He said they also had gobblers responding to calls well up into the day.
“From my experience and that of other really good hunters down here are also experiencing the same thing bodes well for the rest of the season” he said. “I believe that seeing far fewer hens with the gobbler’s means a lot of hens are beginning to nest, and that explains why gobblers are now moving and gobbling much more, not just early but throughout the day.
“This next week, I think we’ll see a big improvement, and although unusual, the last half of the season will likely be more productive than the first half,” Orvin said. “The gobblers are really starting to move and make some noise throughout our part of the state, and I’m excited about the rest of the season.”