Daffodils, forsythia, redbud and soon to bloom dogwood are a sure sign that spring is here. Although those early bloomers may wish they would have waited to pop out with the cold and freezing temperatures we just experienced. Things are about 2 weeks ahead of schedule this year.
The turkeys are gobbling and strutting like the one I saw last week. I was heading up a Braxton County backroad and as I came around the turn I saw black objects in the middle of a field bottom. As I got closer I noticed the one big gobbler was in full strut. There was another gobbler that was just as big along with 7 hens and a jake.
It was a beautiful sight as the sun shined on the birds. The strutting gobbler had a deep blue and blood red head along with a huge paintbrush beard. I wish I had my good camera as it was a frame worthy shot for sure. I watched the show for a few minutes before leaving the love birds alone. They never even paid any attention to me as the strutting gobbler had his eyes on the feeding hens the whole time. That definitely got me excited for spring gobbler season which starts a week earlier this year. The season opener has been moved up and starts next week on April 18 and ends on May 14. There will be a one day youth season this Saturday on April 16 which would be the perfect opportunity to introduce those at least 8 years old and less than 18 to spring gobbler hunting.
Hunters ages 15-17 are required to have the proper license and birds harvested that day count towards the season limit. The hunting looks good this spring according to a recent press release from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR). “Since the typical gobbler harvested is usually a 2-year-old bird, the Division of Natural Resources routinely uses the brood reports from the previous two years to estimate harvest trends. On a statewide level, the brood reports from 2014 were 30 percent higher than 2013 and mimicked the 5-year average, indicating that relative number of birds should be higher than last year. Additionally, the brood reports from 2015 were 22 percent above the year before and 14 percent above the 5-year average on a statewide basis, indicating that more turkeys should be available this spring gobbler season than last. Despite this improved abundance, surviving hens at this time of year are absolutely critical for future population growth. Hunters are strongly urged to protect their hens. Killing a hen in the spring ensures fewer birds both in the fall and following year.”
It’s also illegal to hunt turkeys over bait and is considered cheating. Nobody likes a cheater, so don’t be one of those. As always safety is of most importance especially during turkey season since we’re all decked out in camouflage. All turkeys must have a visible beard so make sure you identify the target before even thinking about taking a shot.
Get out and enjoy all of the beauty our hills and hollows show in the spring. It’s a wonderful time of the year as everything comes back to life. Spring gobbler season begins next week with an early start this year. Good luck to those venturing out and most of all stay safe!