The redbuds are blooming, the dogwoods are budding and the turkeys are gobbling. That can only mean that turkey season is right around the corner.
For many die-hard turkey hunters, it can’t get here soon enough. Actually, this year, it will get here a little earlier than it ever has in the Mountain State. The long awaited spring gobbler opener is a full week earlier than in years past.
The major reason for the early opener was input from the hunters. After years of hunter outcry, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources agreed to move up the opening date by one week. This could be a double edged sword with both pros and cons for the hunters.
This year the spring gobbler Season kicks off with a one day youth season on April 16 for hunters from age 8 and under the age of 18. The regular season will follow by opening up for all licensed hunters on April 18 and remaining open until May 14. That is a full four weeks to bag your spring birds.
Now with that earlier opening date, it might be a little tricky to get that wary bird in close as there will be less vegetation to hide behind and it will make it a lot easier for the keen eyesight of the turkey to pick out any perceivable threat.
It will also make it easy for Ole Tom to notice there isn’t a hen hiding down there where all that beautiful noise is coming from, so why should I bother going in to look for her. A good decoy might be a mandatory tool with an open understory for that gobbler to come sneaking through.
Another bit of caution I might offer is to MAKE SURE OF YOUR TARGET! When you can see farther through the woods, you might be tempted to take a longer shot that you wouldn’t have been afforded otherwise. Make sure you can see a visible beard on the turkey before you pull that trigger. If you can’t, let him get closer until you do.
The last thing anyone wants is to take a hen out of the breeding population, and then get a ticket for it on top of that. One of the pitfalls of an early season is that all the hens might not be on the nest yet and therefore, they are wandering around the forest and will often come to investigate the new girl in town calling out to all her boyfriends, thus putting her in harms way. Just make sure that gobbler is a gobbler before you shoot.
It should be a good year in the turkey woods. Based on turkey brood observations from two years ago the WVDNR expects there to be plenty of 2-year-old and older gobblers running around and that should translate into plenty of hunting action.
So, if you don’t get your spring birds the first couple of days, don’t give up. They are out there. Turkeys can have their good days and bad days, too. Just because they aren’t gobbling and lonesome today doesn’t mean they won’t be tearing it up and ready to come in a runnin’ tomorrow.
It is a long season and there will be gobblers gobbling every day of it. The trick is just finding that hot bird and talking his language just the right way to get him to saunter on over looking for a date.
Good luck out there, and who knows, even if you don’t get that big gobbler, you might stumble over some other delicacies the forest has to offer. Just be sure to keep your eyes out when you are stomping around the hillsides because spring is a bountiful time in the woods!
Roger Wolfe is an outdoor columnist for Civitas Media. He can be reached at [email protected].