Wild Turkeys in Spring

Northern dominant tom turkeys are currently gathering harems of hens & southern dominant toms are already breeding. In either case dominant toms are keeping close to their hens, feathers puffed, tails fanned, making themselves appear twice as large as they normally are — occasionally taking challenging quick steps, wing tips dragging, toward intruding jakes or other adult toms. Toms with the most white on their heads seem to be most attractive to the hens. Dominant toms often pair up to keep other toms from stealing hens, one fighting to drive off any intruder while the other keeps hens from joining another tom. Wherever they go, a dominant hen does the leading and the dominant toms closely follow, never wandering off until breeding comes to an end.

Right now the big toms are quick to notice any hen lying on the ground, a possible invitation to breed. To encourage hens to accept breeding, dominant toms often dance, repeatedly hopping from one foot to the other. Dancing on a receptive hen’s back while it is lying on the ground is a prelude to actual breeding, hens seemingly demanding a good backrub before turning their tails to one side to accept semen from the tom.

Hens of the harem, up to thirty of them, constantly keep a sharp watch for danger, thus protecting toms with other things on their minds. Upon spotting something dangerous nearby, one sharp warning cluck from a hen will instantly trigger a storm of strong wing beats as all turkeys fly toward high perches in nearby trees.

For all the above reasons, white-headed dominant toms seldom fall victim to hunters. Most taken are lesser adult toms anxiously seeking wayward hens, therefore especially susceptible to skilled calling and the sight of one or more realistic hen decoys.