From my perspective.

I started my season as usual in Mid March across the SE, and things seemed to be basically normal other than the greener then normal woods. Birds were henned up as usual, and virtually staying with them all day, and roosting with them at night. Birds died as usual as I traveled, and some narrowly escaped, while others just completely handed down a beating.

At the start of TN's season, I expected the same sort of behavior. Well, that was a mistake. What I witnessed over the first 2 weeks beats anything I have ever seen. If I could have killed what I shot at, and tags were unlimited I think 30 birds could have died. I have never heard so many lonely birds anywhere I have hunted, at anytime during the season. There would be 10 birds free gobbling every morning around 9 am or so, and every one of them was killable in minutes. However, there was a ton of birds which were henned up as to be expected. A little gauge on how crazy it was in these parts, I missed 5 birds in 6 hunts, and tagged 2. 8 birds being shot at in 10 hunts is remarkable hunting anywhere at anytime. It had nothing to do with me as a turkey hunter, and more to do with the birds being crazed beyond belief.

What appeared to be happening at that time, was that it was normal assembly period delayed a week or 2, and that these lonely birds were simply gathering hens after being booted by the dominant birds. That proved to maybe not be the case, or it may have been the case, I still don't know what happened.

Starting with KY's opener, and TN's 3rd week, the number of single lonely birds had dropped considerably to dang near zero. I found 2 KY birds during the first 2 days of their season that an infant could have killed with 2 rocks being banged together. But overall, most birds were horribly henned up.

4th week of the season, birds still henned up, and basically no ground gobbling. Seemed perfectly normal.

5th week of the season, most birds were still henned up, but every day starting around 9:30 am birds would start free gobbling here and there. The problem was that even the best set up, would find a bird that was basically unkillable. They would gobble a million times, and never move one inch. I worked no less than 30 birds or groups of birds that I still have no idea why they wouldn't budge. A few had hens, but most seemed alone, and would gobble uncontrollably for hours, until I finally would give up on them and move on.

Last week, I expected to go into last week and see similar stuff as the first week to 10 days. Wrong. Some birds were still henned up, but the woods basically went quiet, completely. Hens were everywhere, literally. Wandering alone, in the same areas, in other words sitting, or raising poults. However, there was zero lonely birds basically. I did find my 3rd TN bird last Monday, and it was a death match that last 2 hours before he finally closed the 40 yards he needed to, and died. That's right it took 2 hours for him to travel 40 yards. Not normal with a 3 year old bird that was alone. AS the week went on, it got weirder and weirder, zero birds gobbling at daylight, with maybe a bird firing up mid morning, but not responding to calls at all. Gobble at everything except a hen call, certainly never seen this before, not consistently at least. Top all of that off with me seeing poults yesterday. I did fill my 4th tag this morning on a nasty dominant bird who had 4 hens with him, but it was more luck than anything that cost him.

I don't know what to think, buddies of mine in the deep south are still killing birds, they are responding well and it seems perfectly normal. However, that is there, and this is here.

At the start of the season, everything I have ever been taught and/or learned in the field indicates temps don't matter a great deal when it comes to breeding. And it still may not, but it also could play a larger role than anyone expected. Granted we have never seen weather like this past year, so historical data is somewhat useless.

I don't know what caused the weirdness, and we all should learn more over the next few months as the poult sightings and counts come in. That will show when peak hatching occurred, and clearly show if the entire pattern shifted or not.

A few wonderings I have had:

1: Did the thicker woods cause normally killable birds to refuse to move for fear of being killed by predators? In other words, they felt safe where they stood and wouldn't move as to avoid danger?

2. Did birds, simply lose interest over the course of the season by not finding receptive hens early, thus leaving a surplus of hens for the dominant birds?

3. Did most hens get bred early, and the first 2 weeks found what would be normal week 5 and 6?

4. Did past hatches keep birds henned up longer than normal?

I don't know, and hope to learn more over the next few months as to what happened, and also hope we go back to normal winter/early spring. Overall it was a great year, and my kill totals were normal, but dam it took alot of work, blood, and sweat to get it done. If I weren't stupidly persistent, it would have been easy to hang it up.