Monday, April 18, 2011

Why Do We Wait for Spring Gobbler in WV?

This always seems to be a hot debate in local WV conversation and message boards. With most the states that surround West Virginia opening up on average a week or two earlier, why must we wait? This argument will go on for some time, but I was listening to West Virginia Outdoors Today with Chris Lawrence earlier this month and they covered this topic with a WV DNR Biologist. Below is the recap article, written by Mr. Chris Lawrence, of that conversation.

Chris Lawrence

Image from Trail Cam Tuesday - April 12, 2011
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.  FloridaGeorgiaSouth Carolina, and Alabamaall 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.  


  1. I would never have guessed it was for hen stressed is your hen population?

  2. Great read and pretty much the same thing our DEP biologist has said. I know NJ moved back their opener as well. Ct opens a few days earlier then previously but only by a week. Good luck this spring.

    Passinthru Outdoors Blog - Sharing the Passion

  3. Ian, I honestly don't know.. I just took up turkey hunting recently, but I don't think it's that bad.. Plus in the southern part of the state the birds are on a different schedule that the ones up north, so it isn't fair for half the state..


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