Spring gobbler season in West Virginia opens Monday, April 17, and state officials are predicting a good season boosted by the 2016 cicada emergence.
Hunters may kill only one bearded turkey per day and two during the season, which runs through Saturday, May 13, according to Gary Foster of the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources.
Youth hunters younger than 18 who would like to experience spring gobbler hunting are encouraged to participate in the special one-day youth season Saturday, April 15. Check the 2016-17 hunting regulations for specific details on this season.
Because the typical gobbler harvested is usually a two-year-old bird, Foster wrote in a press release that the division routinely projects the harvest by using brood reports from two years earlier.
On a statewide scale, the brood reports from 2015 exceeded the five-year average by 14 percent, thanks in largely to the contribution of the southern region, which saw brood observations increase by 67 percent.
Observations from the mountain counties declined by 44 percent with the remaining two regions at or exceeding the prior year’s recruitment, meaning that over most of the state, relative abundance should be greater this year.
The 17-year periodical cicadas emerged last year in much of the state. This abundant food supply, which greatly helped survival, caused the brood reports in the northern and northwestern counties to increase by 323 percent over the five-year average.
While the male pecking order usually suppresses the young males (jakes) from coming readily to a hunter’s call, the sheer numbers of them in this general area could result in more jakes in the harvest.
As spring progresses, many hunters quit hunting for a variety of reasons, including a perception that the birds have finished gobbling. Obviously, those highly vocal turkeys that are more prone to calling are taken during the first week of the season, which generates 58 percent of the total harvest.
However, good-to-excellent hunting can still be had through the end of the season. According to a number of hunters, some of the best hunts take place in the last week and last days of the season as gobblers that are interested in breeding easily come to calls.
Officials want to remind sportsmen and women that hunting turkey over bait and killing hens is illegal and unethical and disrespects the great sport of spring gobbler hunting.
Turkey hunters are encouraged to report any such activity to their local Natural Resources Police Officer or call 911 to report the violation.
If doing the right thing is not enough, the West Virginia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation pays a reward of $100 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of anyone using bait to attempt killing wild turkeys.