Spring gobbler season almost here

April 9, 2019

I can hardly wait, I’m so excited. I am a turkey hunter and our season opens right around the corner.

I have made grand preparations including patterning shotguns, chalking box calls and laying out my camo. I got a jump start this year with a successful hunt in Florida, but there is absolutely nothing like the hills of home and the gobblers that live here.

When I received the news from our DNR, I simply couldn’t wait to share it. West Virginia’s statewide four-week spring gobbler season opens Monday, April 15, and runs through May 11. Hunters can harvest one bearded bird per day with a season bag limit of two.

The one-day youth season will be April 13, the Saturday before the regular season. Youth at least 8 years old and younger than 18 can harvest one bearded bird which counts toward their season bag limit of two. Check the 2018-2019 West Virginia Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary for details.

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) is anticipating an average harvest for spring gobblers this year. DNR typically predicts the spring harvest by using the brood reports from two years earlier because the average harvested spring gobbler is a 2-year-old bird.

In 2017, brood production was 30 percent below the five-year average. However, Mike Peters, DNR game bird biologist, emphasized that 2016 was a banner year for broods because of the eruption of the 17-year cicadas, an abundant food source.

“2016 was an exceptional production and recruitment year,” said Peters. “Overall 2017 brood production was on par with a typical year, meaning the 2019 spring gobbler season should produce a typical harvest.”

All hunters age 15 and older are required to have a West Virginia hunting or sportsman license and a valid form of identification while hunting. A West Virginia hunting or sportsman license can be purchased at approximately 180 retail agents around the state or online at wvhunt.com.

Now you know the rules and regulations. Let’s just hope on opening morning right before the sun clears the mountains to shine light on the day, he gobbles. He gobbles at your call, a crow, an owl and even a passing train whistle from way off in the distance.

And in doing so, it allows you the time to quietly walk toward him and get set up with plenty of time on your side. Right about pitch down time, you give him a soft tree yelp and he answers proudly. You hear wings flapping and hens off in the distance chattering excitement about the sun rising. Just then, you blink to make sure, you see his head - a color mixture of white, light blueish and bright red shades.

All of a sudden, the top of his head turns bright white and you see his fanned-out tail. He is in full strut and is standing just out of range. A hen can be heard over your left shoulder - on the other ridge. He turns and gobbles in her direction. You yelp with your mouth call. He turns and starts walking toward you.

He is coming. You can hear your heart beating loudly in your chest. Are you ready? Spring gobbler season is near.

Chris Ellis of Fayetteville, W.Va., an outdoorsman and Marshall University graduate, is owner of Ellis Communications, a public relations agency serving the outdoor industry. Contact him at chris@elliscom.net.