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Spring Gobbler Season Late for a Reason

  Photo: Eddie Ferrari

West Virginia‘s spring gobbler season opens April 25th.  It’s a season that draws a lot of interest–and often because of when it opens–a lot of contention.

"I got a call last week–and I know I’m going to get more," said Biologist Chris Ryan during a recent edition of West Virginia Outdoors. "Why don’t you open the spring turkey season earlier?"

The answer is purely for the protection of the resources.  Researchers with the West Virginia DNR have given considerable attention to the wild turkey population.  The research included a hen study from years ago which determined half the turkey hens in West Virginia will have gone to nest by May 1.

"May 1st is the actual mid point of when those hens go to nest," said Ryan. "Ohio just replicated the study over there and they agreed the same thing. Right in this region that’s about the time they go to nest."

The data doesn’t hold true for states to the south.  Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama all have a much earlier spring gobbler season.  Ryan says they can afford to open the season earlier because, their nesting period occurs much earlier.    The theory, which has proven true over time, is hens on the nest are less likely to be killed by hunters either errantly or maliciously in poaching. 

"Whenever they set the dates and this was before my time, they actually agreed on that fourth Monday in April," Ryan said. "It’s actually before the mid-point of the medium of when those hens go to nest.  But it’s late enough that they’re already well into their egg laying.  It’s actually done to protect those hens."

Some hunters complain they hear more gobbling activity in the days leading up to the season.   Ryan says that doesn’t necessarily mean the gobbling is over before the four-week season ends.   Biologists say after the first two weeks of the season, most hens are on the nest and gobblers are still in search of a breeding mate.   The gobblers are likely more receptive to a hunters call when they’re desperate to find more mates.  


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