The arrival of a new season always comes with a certain amount of anticipation on the part of turkey hunters. This year’s early spring green-up seemed to increase the anxiety as hunters pondered how it might affect their success.

A number of novice hunters were concerned that opening day would arrive too late and all the action would be over. Meanwhile, more experienced hunters knew differently.

In a typical year, many longbeards still have a healthy harem of hens in tow when opening day arrives. This leaves hunters having to compete with one another as well as the hens. And a gobbler who already has what he seeks can be tough to call to the gun.

As the season progresses, individual hens spend increasingly less time with the flocks. As a result, toms become easier to call. Ordinarily, by the time that happens the birds have been pressured by several weeks of hunting, which counteracts their eagerness, and abundance.

This year, many of those lonely toms were available on opening day. That, and a rebounding turkey population, created something of a perfect storm for the opening week of the spring turkey season. Long lines at the check stations on youth day and the general opener seemed to validate that conjecture. Not only were hunters bringing in more birds, they were bringing in bigger, older birds that often aren’t taken until the middle or late season.

There is a price to pay for this year’s early bounty. Many of those eager birds that would normally be available midseason had been removed from the population. That was ameliorated slightly by the early arrival of another phenomenon, something I call the spring shuffle.

It usually comes sometime between the second and third week of the season. This year it started toward the end of the first week. Gobblers that had been faithful to a particular area seemed to suddenly disappear. Meanwhile, birds started showing up in places they hadn’t been seen all spring.

It’s a bit like the whitetail rut. As hens complete their clutches, they drop out of the general population. A tom’s harem grows smaller until one day he wakes up alone. With the companionship he so avidly seeks suddenly absent, the lovesick tom strikes out in search of greener pastures.

There are still hens out there. Some weren’t bred early; others may have lost their nests to predators and will make themselves available to a randy tom.

If they find that which they seek, the toms may settle into a new area. This is when hunters who redouble their scouting efforts may find some pleasant surprises.

But soon the pendulum will swing back in the other direction. The lengthening days have a suppressing effect on both the tom’s and the hen’s breeding urges. As May wanes on, toms find filling their crops and loafing take on greater import.

Hunters, too, might find alternate activities like golf and fishing more productive. Hardcore hunters might still find a few rare birds that will answer a call. The rest can begin the anxiety and anticipation of what the 2013 season has in store.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]