Gobbling chronology of eastern wild turkeys in South Carolina
Eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) use a polygynous-promiscuous mating system, wherein males compete for mating opportunities and communicate with females via courtship behaviors. One courtship behavior is vocalization (gobbling), which attracts females and signals dominance to other males. However, temporal variation in gobbling activity may be influenced by external stimuli, environmental variation, and hunter activity. Gobbling activity is a key determinant of hunter satisfaction, and gobbling chronology is often used by state agencies to inform regulatory processes. To identify factors influencing gobbling activity, we evaluated daily gobbling chronology on 3 sites in South Carolina, USA (Webb Wildlife Management Area [WMA] Complex, Savannah River Site, Crackerneck WMA) with different levels of hunter activity.We used autonomous recording units (ARUs; n¼45) across 8,280 days to collect 53,937 hours of ambient sound recordings and identified 68,426 gobbles. Gobbling activity varied daily and site interacting with minutes since sunrise best predicted daily gobbling activity. We noted distinct differences in predicted numbers of gobbles between hunted sites and an unhunted site, suggesting that hunting may be an important determinant of gobbling activity.Across our study sites, we observed that72% of gobbling activity occurred between 30minutes before and 60minutes after sunrise. We found no clear evidence of well-defined unimodal or bimodal peaks in daily or weekly gobbling activity. Across sites, <44% of gobbling activity occurred during legal hunting seasons in South Carolina, with between 30% and 48% of gobbling activity occurring after legal hunting seasons. Because hunter satisfaction is primarily influenced by gobbling activity, wildlife managers in SouthCarolina may consider adjusting dates of turkey hunting seasons to correspond hunting with periods when most gobbling occurs.