West Virginia Spring Gobbler Season Set To Begin

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The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds hunters to get their gear ready for the upcoming spring gobbler hunting season. The four-week season opens April 28 and closes on May 24, according to Bill Igo, the DNR’s wild turkey project leader. Igo recommends spring gobbler hunters make sure they are prepared with proper clothing, a shotgun that is appropriately patterned, and adequate hunting gear (e.g., turkey calls, knife, rain gear, compass/GPS unit, matches, maps and a pencil for completing field tags). Hunters are advised not to wear clothing with the colors of red, white or blue – the colors of a mature gobbler’s head and neck area.

A special one-day, youth spring gobbler hunt opens on April 26, just prior to the regular Monday season opening. Youth participating in this hunt must be at least eight years of age and no more than 14 years old on the day of the season. The youth must be accompanied by a licensed adult of at least 21 years of age, who cannot carry a gun or bow and must remain close enough to render advice and assistance to the youngster. The only legal weapon that can be used by a youth hunter is a shotgun with shot sizes 4, 5 or 6. Last year, youth hunters harvested 298 toms during the one-day youth spring gobbler season. “This special youth hunt provides an ideal opportunity for seasoned hunters to introduce young people to the joys of spring turkey hunting,” said Igo. “In addition to having a great day afield, these adult mentors pass along their hunting knowledge, create great memories and keep the fine hunting tradition alive for the next generation of hunters.”

Wildlife biologists are predicting a slightly higher harvest of birds this spring when compared to last year’s kill of 9,965. “West Virginia’s brood count was up 12 percent in 2006 over the previous year, but was an average brood count when compared to the last 5 years,” Igo said. “Our data indicate brood counts accurately predict spring turkey harvests two years down the road. With more two-year old birds in the population this spring, a slight increase in overall harvest is expected.”

Igo also advises hunters to be aware that radio transmitters and/or leg bands have been placed on some gobblers. These marked birds are part of a statewide gobbler survival study to determine causes of mortality, effects of hunting and gather more biological data designed to assist the DNR in its efforts to effectively manage the state’s wild turkey resource. Hunters harvesting a banded or radioed bird should contact their local DNR District Office or the Elkins Operations Center.

The DNR, in conjunction with the West Virginia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, is also conducting the Annual Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey. Cooperating turkey hunters submit daily records of their hunts and complete a brief questionnaire. A hunter does not have to kill a gobbler to provide useful data. Much of the survey information collected involves what a hunter hears, sees or has an opinion about. Any hunter interested in participating in the survey is encouraged to contact Patty Fordyce, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, PO Box 67, Elkins, WV 26241, telephone: 304-637-0245 or email: pattyfordyce@wvdnr.gov.