Photo: NWTF

West Virginia turkey hunters can look forward to a season about equal to the last five years.

"Our five year average for spring gobbler season is 9,800 birds," said DNR Turkey Biologist Keith Krantz. "It doesn’t fluctuate a whole lot."

Krantz in a recent appearance on West Virginia Outdoors indicated off season brood production was solid for the past year and turkey hunters will hear gobbling in most every part of the state.    The early spring has impacted many things this year, but gobbling activity isn’t one of those things coaxed by the early onset of spring conditions.

"Probably a little bit earlier, but most of that’s driven by photo period, day length," said Krantz. "Somehow in the turkey’s brain it recognizes that day length is getting longer and that triggers the desire to start breeding behavior.  It doesn’t really matter how nice and warm it is."

The one thing the early spring warmth has created is a much faster greening of the forest.   Visibility will be impacted as hunters attempt to call in turkeys.   The increased foliage is irritating to some and for others is a down right deal breaker.   Neighboring states opened their spring gobbler season a week or even two weeks ago. The DNR often endures withering criticism from some turkey hunters for the late season dates.

"I don’t think it’s so late in terms of the research that’s out there," Krantz said in defense of the season date. "People need to recognize what we try to do is blend the science with the sociological needs of the people."

Biologists have long defended the opening date in West Virginia as a measure to insure the highest number of brooding hens are nesting and unavailable to be potentially killed. 

"West Virginia has an awful high loss rate of hens that aren’t incubating," said Krantz. "The radio telemetry study showed non-incubating hens were more likely to be shot or poached in the spring.  Our seasons are set as close to biologically based time periods as we can get them."

The season opens Monday, April 23 and runs for four weeks.   Saturday, April 21 is a youth spring gobbler hunt for those under the age of 18. 


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