There is a running argument among turkey hunters in West Virginia.  The debate rages over the timing of spring gobbler season in West Virginia.   Critics say the state opens its season too late for hunters to maximize success.

DNR Wildlife Chief Curtis Taylor bristles at the notion.  He says West Virginia’s season is set biologically to protect the future of the wild turkey population.

“Our season is set to open when more than 50-percent of hens are sitting on the next,” said Taylor. “Gobblers are going to start gobbling as early as March, but hens aren’t going to do much with them until they are breeding and laying eggs and egg laying is going on right now.”

Some critics of the DNR’s policy on spring gobbler season point to neighboring states, particularly Virginia, who open their season several weeks before West Virginia.    The spring hunt started last Monday in Virginia.  

Taylor pointed to those states as well in defending his position.  He noted this year is later opening than Virginia has been used too.    He said biologists there found the early season is hurting the turkey numbers in their states, but they are handcuffed to do anything about it.

“A lot of states set their season based more on politics than they do on biology if you want to cut to the chase,”  he said. “If you talk to most of the turkey biologists and the folks in the know who’ve reviewed what we’ve done and are doing currently, they’ll tell you our season is set if anything a little too early based strictly on the biology of the bird.”

However, Taylor said there’s also another factor  often overlooked– hunting pressure.   West Virginia, per capita, has far more who will be in the woods for spring gobbler season than other states and it will impact the numbers.

“West Virginia has a lot of turkey hunters.  You don’t want to make a mistake and overharvest the gobbler segment of the population or get to the point you’re killing more jake gobblers than adults,”  Taylor said. “That’s what some of these states are seeing that open earlier.”

Taylor fiercely defended the season date policy and some hunters continue to fiercely criticize it.   So far however, public pressure has not impacted the Natural Resouurces Commission’s decision to set the season date each year. 

West Virginia’s spring gobbler season opens Monday and runs for four weeks.

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  • Eric Miller

    I used to feel the season was opened to late , but when I thought about the management part of it , I didn't worry about. I do believe if it was earlier we would see a great decline in our turkey population .Of course this only applies to the legal hunters. Not really a challenge to harvest anything out of season. I'm glad the DNR is doing its part to save the tradition of hunting.

  • Eric Miller

    I agree with Smokey

  • Gobbler Getter

    If you have data of Hens killed in the spring then it should be from arrests if not, how did they get the numbers? I would bet more turkeys are killed illegally by people hunting before the season opens. WVA used to be the state that supplied others states Turkeys back when the NWTF and the conservation efforts of trapping and relocating was going on. Now it seems since things have remained the same with opening the season late your harvest numbers have remained poor. Lots of hunters spooking hens off the nest can be counter productive also. I think the Commissioner should open the season a week earlier and on Saturday to improve the harvest numbers and the quality of time spent in the woods when the Gobblers are Gobbling hard and coming to the call. The over harvest on the population hasn't been proven, Ft Campbell KY, allows hunters to kill 4 Gobblers. I have heard for years they are going to hurt their Turkey population but here it is 15 years later and they still have an abundance of Turkeys. Maybe the Commissioner should spend some of that money from licenses to improve habitat so the population of Turkeys would increase.

  • kevin

    It has been well documented that the earlier the season opens the more hens will be shot illegally. If you need to see the results of multiple studies that have shown this, please contact your DNR and I'm sure they will provide you with the data. This is common sense, when most hens are on the nest their travels are very limited and are less exposed to being shot illegally.Your kill stats only prove one thing, kentucky has a higher turkey population than west va, so does tennessee and virginia. When hens are bred and on the nest, gobblers are lonely and are more likely, not less to respond to your calls. The ppl that complain about the season being too late, one of their main complaints is henned up gobblers, which tells me that the season opens as early as it can. I think the hens nest later on average in West VA than they do in Tennessee, Kentucky, or Virginia. This is especially true in the higher elevations.

  • Gobbler Getter

    Kevin, I disagree with several of your comments. First I doubt very seriously that bringing the season in earlier would have a drastic affect on the Turkey population. Second why does everyone have to assume if you bring the season in earlier that will mean hunters will poach Hens. WVA might kill 10K birds a season, KY kills on average 35K a season and predicted to hit 40K next year and the season comes in 2 weeks earleir than WVA.
    If Hens are bred and on the nest than Gobblers group back up and are almost impossible to call up and kill. Hunting during the peak of the breeding season is when Turkey hunting is at its best with lots of Gobbling and responding to the call. It is far more enjoyable too. If the dominant bird gets killed the subordinate Gobbler will take over and do the breeding. A dead Hen in the fall won't be laying eggs in the spring either. Just because people don't agree with your opinion does not make them ignorant so keep it the way it is WVA and kill 10K Turkeys every year. And yes your Turkey hunting is as good as its going to get.

  • kevin

    The season is about right. The turkey biologists know what they are doing. Hunting on the WMA's is excellent and they all have lots of birds. The biggest factor that has an adverse effect on gobbler hunting in your state is the hunting pressure. Like Mr. Taylor stated, the # of spring turkey hunters per capita in WV is extremely high. It has been well documented that hunting pressure reduces gobbling. If the season was any earlier, in just a few short years the hunting would be much worse as the population would decline each year. This is not rocket science but alot of you don't seem to get it. You cannot start killing gobblers before the majority of hens have been bred and expect to have a stable population of turkeys. No wonder Mr. Taylor defends it so fiercely, this is common sense. Understand that while a hen is laying she needs that gobbler up until the time she is almost ready to sit on the nest. Mr. Taylor is doing all of you and the wild turkeys a big favor by not caving in to all of your demands. The hunting is as good as it's gonna get now. An earlier start date will make for good hunting for a couple of years. Then all of you will start whining about there not being any turkeys after two years of killing the gobblers before the hens have laid a good clutch of eggs. The argument about the killing of hens in the fall makes no sense to me. There is a big difference in killing 1 turkey hen in the fall versus a hen death in the Spring which would be death to 10-15 potential turkeys. Mr. Taylor, I applaud you and the West VA DNR for the excellent turkey hunting your state provides. I am sorry so many of your hunters are to ignorant to understand the life cycle of the wild turkey and try to blame you for their lack of gobbler hunting success.

  • Gobbler Getter

    Curtis Taylor wants to protect the future of the wild turkey population by ensuring very few kill one. I used to come back to WVA and turkey hunt but not anymore. Doing things "because that is the way we have always done them" is the reason. Not being able to get passed the no hunting on Sunday and opening a season on Monday is another. I was born in WVA but I chose to live in KY where hunting on Sunday is no big deal. Seasons open on Saturday and a working man has the weekend to hunt. KY has much larger deer too.

  • Andy

    Yeah politics is right I talked to a dnr officer and he said he could not find any hunters, I said why not bring the season in earlier so we get more hunters. And he said that the hunters would kill all the gobblers, so I said hows that if there is no hunters now. He was stumped and didn't have an answer. the real reason is they bring the season in late to attract other hunters from other states that has already been in. Because its all about money!!!!!!!

  • allen

    If the DNR was serious about growing population numbers (not killing hens) they would change verbage on regulations from bearded turkerys to gobblers only. Any turkey hunter worth his salt should see and know difference between bearded hens and a gobbler. Also, in the spring if a hunter is killing hens on April 1st or May1st it would still be illegal if season opened April 1st. Why make honest hunters suffer for what outlaws do. They (poachers) will kill regardless of laws and season dates. Gobblers don't lay eggs do they?

  • leroy jethro gibbs

    our WMA's are terrible, nothing but autumn olives and scraggly timber, all the oak, hickory trees are gone, its a wonder anything lives there

  • Jim

    But we can agree that WV does not care well enough for our WMAs? We need some clearing, planting,etc.

  • Longbeards

    Lets see, the head of the DNR is a appointment by the govennor, there is nothing political about the WV DNR is there...
    Using one plan to manage the 3 geographical regions of the state makes since too! The peak of the gobbling in Jefferson County is the same as Tucker or Randolph,,,,go figure,,,

  • david

    Our dnr is alot like are politicians we will continue to be far behind all the other states as usual..

  • Smokey

    Same argument every year, they are not going to change it, let it rest.
    Go to the woods when the season opens and enjoy.

  • Joe

    I truly believe politics plays a much larger role in the establishment of an earlier spring gobbler season then has been admitted.

  • Jim

    Trying to get Curtis Taylor to listen to alternatives to the same old, same old season argument to Spring Gobbler season configuration is a lot like wrestling with a pig in the mud; after about 30 minutes you finally realize that the pig is enjoying itself! So, to say, "DNR Wildlife Chief Curtis Taylor bristles at the notion" of Spring Gobbler season changes is an understatement! He's taken an intrackable position. It's like the man who famously said, "don't confuse me with the facts, I have my mind made up." As one takes an objective view of harvest records for the past several decades, a pattern becomes apparent. One year the harvest is up, the next year the harvest is down. However, no data exists which demonstrates an upward trend. Which begs the question, does Curtis Taylor and his minions believe that WV has reached its peak of turkey population and will continue on a relative plateau forever, but still somewhat subject to annual ups & downs in harvest numbers? My response is absolutely NO! WV habitat could easily accomodate thousands more turkeys. But fall seasons' harvests will always limit that potential. Curtis frequently uses one of his trite sayings when referring to opening Spring Gobbler season earlier due to hen mortality from indiscriminate hunters: "dead hens lay no eggs." To which I respond, dead FALL KILLED hens lay no eggs either!

  • thornton

    If you believe that Ohio does a swell job re the state areas then you would be sadly mistaken....same with game management for most species past deer.
    There can be some dissension with turkey season dates in Ohio as well, top to bottom in the state, will have that in many states.
    Essentially, compared to the needed and most often overlooked important decisions concerning species and habitat in either state, the turkey season dates are much ado about very, very little.

    Best treatment of state lands for game and hunters both, would go to Pennsylvania.
    Those PGC folks trump all states that surround them in positives.
    Of course, the PGC funding system provides a bonus.

  • Chad

    I hunt in all 3 states around here and not only am I disappointed in my own state(WV) for lack of effort they put into the WMA's from the money they gather off of licenses but mostly because of the excuses they use all of the time to justify their decisions on things. Kentucky and Ohio use every available piece of ground they can in their WMA'S, whether it be planting food plots, going in the middle of them and cutting ponds in one flat down from the top, to just simply plowing up the dirt. If they can get a piece of equipment to it they do something. WV doesn't do anything but continually take your money. They come out with this split doe season all over the state in multiple counties and split it to where your neighbor across the street couldn't kill a deer but you can, but yet they won't split the turkey season because of the tourist aspect to it in the northern counties and just because I don't think they want you to kill them or else they would've fixed this problem years ago instead of defending themselves every year and making more excuses.

  • Josh

    First of all why not bring season in on a Saturday so a working man can hunt on the opening day without having to take the day off? That would be a start in "getting with the times". Next is, at the least WV should have a split season because it doesn't take a state biologist with a degree to know that spring comes sooner in "Gilmer Co." than it does in "Randolph Co." There are states out there that do that because I've hunted them. (i.e Florida, Texas). It does not seem to be an issue when it comes to the deer and bear seasons as per rules and regs. I have turkey hunted in Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Ohio, and of course West Virginia and of those I'm sure that TN, VA, and OH as per WVDNR standards are "too early" but every time I go hunting in those states there are always plenty of turkeys! And in VA and TN I hunt in the mountains not flat terrain. As far as spring gobbler harvest data, it has to be "unrealistic" for such a late season has to be encouraging many to hunt "early". Just some thoughts and suggestions from a concerned hunter.

  • Brett

    Facts are that because our season comes in late I like hunting in Kentucky how much money is the state losing because of this?