There is quite possibly no more exciting time for a hunter to be in the woods than on a cold and crisp November morning when the mature bucks are roaming the forest looking for a mate. A close second to those brisk bluebird mornings with the crunch of every leaf promising a trophy buck, would be the sunrise of a warm spring morning when the thunderous gobble of a long-bearded turkey echoes through the hollows.
There are many hunters that would say that hearing the distant gobble of a turkey closing the distance in the spring woods is even more exciting than the anticipation felt throughout the month of November. No matter the order of preference they are both wondrous times to be in the forest and fields of the Mountain State.
Spring Gobbler Season kicks off on April 17th and runs through May 13th. The season will be full of exciting encounters from the first day to the last. Turkeys have been seen strutting, gobbling and chasing hens for weeks, and they show no signs of slowing down.
The worries of the birds being “gobbled out” or “henned up” are always present, but with a little searching, there is no doubt a willing competitor can easily be found. With the four-week season, there is plenty of time to find a lonesome Tom turkey ready to answer your calls. It just takes a bit of persistence.
Many seasoned veteran turkey hunters will even tell you that they don’t start hunting in earnest until the second week, once the mad rush of opening day turkey hunters has died down and the woods are pretty much left to the die-hard turkey hunters.
Regardless of when you decided to take to the spring woods during the season, there should be plenty of turkeys to chase and, hopefully, fill your tags. Recent years have seen solid brood production which translates into more adult birds to hunt when the season rolls around.
Looking back at count numbers from two years ago, there should be plenty of two-year-old and older birds to keep the hills alive with the rolling sound of gobbles. Last year’s brood count was right in line with the hefty numbers from recent years and should even contribute a few 1 year old birds to the mix who are ready to come to the call.
Those year-old birds, or Jakes, are legal to harvest as long as they have a visible beard. Also, as many as 10 percent of female turkeys grow a beard and even these female turkeys are legal during the season.
Although they are legal, these hens are not recommended for the hunters to harvest, as these bearded hens will help produce the next class of turkeys to hunt. Hunters have always been hailed as the best stewards of their sport and by passing those legal bearded hens is just another example of their commitment to conserve their sport.
There is no prettier time to be in the woods than when they are filled with the colors and sounds of spring. So, as gobbler hunters take to the woods for the next few weeks to chase the puffed out and gobble happy boss birds, they should take a minute to read over the spring gobbler regulations and keep in mind that safety is always the most important thing when enjoying any outdoor sport.
A few tips to keep in mind as hunters hit the woods include always properly identifying your target and what is beyond it. The spring woods get thick very quickly and it is easy to miss something that is only a few feet away. Just take an extra second to make sure your shot is as safe and ethical as possible before pulling the trigger.
Another important one during turkey season is avoiding those patriotic colors of red, white and blue. These colors can be mistaken as the bright colors of the gobbler’s head and it is that colorful head that most hunters are looking for and aiming for in the green and brushy spring forest.
Nothing can ruin a memorable hunt like a momentary lapse in safety that causes triumph to turn to tragedy in an instant. So, always keep safety first and foremost anytime you are in the outdoors.
Good luck to all the hunters chasing the wily thunder chickens up and down the mountains. If luck should favor you and you harvest a big bird, I hope he will grace the dinner table with all the flash and flare that he graces the hillside with as he strutted his stuff. Most of all, may the memories of the hunt be one that you can fondly recall for many years to come.
Roger Wolfe is an Outdoor Columnist for Civitas Media. For questions, comments, or story ideas he can be reached at [email protected]