10:06am: Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval

Hunters ready for 2024 spring gobbler season

FARMINGTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia spring gobbler season for 2024 will open April 15th and stretch for the following five weeks. Over the course of those days, a lot will change with the hunting dynamic and the environment of the West Virginia woods. However, Division of Natural Resources Game Bird Biologist Mike Peters noted it is still the first three days of the season which seem to be the most prevalent in the minds of hunters.

“It’s no different than deer season. The first three days of deer season are the big days and turkey season is the same way, the first three days are the days most people are out there,” he said.

Harvest data reflects the first three days are also when most of the spring gobblers are killed. But, Peters added, that’s unfortunate because there are a range of hunting opportunities and condition changes which allow the potential for success during the course of the five week season to ebb and flow. The woods you hunted on the first three days will be a vastly different place in five weeks.

“The biggest thing going on at this time of the year is green-up and leaf out. The dynamics are constantly changing from week to week and day to day almost,” said Peters.

The vegetation change impacts the ability to see turkeys and also to hear them. Leaves tend to muffle distant gobbles which may be much closer than you think by late in the season.

Historically the first week in particular can also present a weather challenge. Also like deer season, the challenge doesn’t impact the turkeys as much as hunters.

“If we have a really cold, wet, and windy opening day, the hunters just don’t go out like they would on a warm and sunny day. A couple of years ago we had snow on opening day and that really impacted the whole seasons harvest,” Peters said.

Another dynamic seasoned turkey hunters will know is the change in gobbler behavior. During the earliest days of the season, many gobblers may have a flock of hens to keep them occupied. They’ll be less inclined to care about your distant call. But, as time goes by, those hens will eventually be bred and head for the nest. As the hen numbers available to a gobbler diminish, his drive is still very much active and he may become even more receptive to hunters’ calls.

“They’re still raring to go and looking for hens. The hens are either incubating or are ready to start incubating, In my opinion it makes it easier to call in a big gobbler, so there are advantages to waiting. I know some traditional turkey hunters who like to wait until that last week because they think that’s their best change to harvest a bird,” Peters added.

Typically West Virginia hunters kill a two year old gobbler, which means the brood report from 2022 will be an important piece of information to determine the number of gobblers on the landscape for this year. According to Peters the data from the 2022 brood count was about average to slightly below average. He surmised the season forecast would be right about average as well.

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