Thoughts on Spring Gobbler Season

Thoughts on Spring Gobbler Season
by WVDNR Director Frank Jezioro
May – The Month of Color

Hunting in West Virginia
West Virginia Wild
West Virginia DNR
West Virginia DNR

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – -( I think it was Ben Franklin who said the wild turkey should be the national bird instead of the bald eagle.

He was probably right as the wild turkey has flourished and expanded its range even though heavily hunted, while the bald eagle had to have protection for its species to survive.

The second reason old Ben spoke up for the wild turkey was that our gobblers carry the national colors of red, white and blue.

So all of this was going through my mind as I sat on a fallen log at daylight the first Monday of the spring gobbler season, waiting for that first gobble.

I always like for the gobbler to sound off first, giving away its location. When nothing came from the high ridges and deep hollows, I decided that it was time to make a move.

As I walked along the old logging road, the forest creatures were coming to life. Birds were starting to chirp, chipmunks and squirrels were beginning to scurry around and deer were slinking off ahead of me. I was in mid-stride when an old long-beard gobbler rattled the ridge across from me. I stopped in my tracks to listen and, again, the old Tom sounded off.

Now I had him pinpointed. He was a little below my level, out around the road and on a flat where I had killed a gobbler a few years ago. This was a perfect location. I could set up along the road and be able to watch the road and about 50 yards of the flat where he was roosted. He would either come up the old road or out the flat. Either way, he would present a perfect 30 to 40 yard shot.

As I quietly cleared some of the sticks away from the tree where I wanted to set up, he continued to gobble on his own. In a minute or so I had a little spot cleaned out, my mask down and the gun on my knee. I was now ready and took out the old Lynch box call I have had since 1961. Years ago, I started to cut small notches on one side for the hens and one side for the gobblers. After about 20 notches I decided that if I kept it up at that rate there might be little left of the call.

I let out three or four soft yelps and immediately the old gobbler came right back at me. I waited a couple of minutes and hit the call again with the same response. I remember thinking that this was going to be too easy. I settled in and took up a conversation with the old gobbler. I would call and he would gobble. He would gobble and I would call. He would get silent and I would too. Sometimes he would outwait me and sometimes I would not call again until he gobbled.

He sounded ready, but something also seemed wrong. Then I heard it. A hen began to call and even cut right where I thought he was. He had a hen or two with him on the roost. I have found it difficult to call a gobbler away from a hen. I have had them leave a hen and come in and have had them come in with their hen. But most of the time I have had little success in this situation.

Our back and forth banter went on for about 15 minutes. Then, all of a sudden, he got completely silent. Experience has taught me that when the gobbler shuts up you need to sit perfectly still for one of two things is happening – the gobbler is either coming or going. Well, in this case he was going and taking the hen with him. I remained still for about 30 minutes and never heard him again.

Was I disappointed? Sure, I would have liked to have called him, but on the other hand my hunt would have ended the first hour of the first day of the season. But now I can get up again and head out in the dark to watch the sun usher in another glorious day.

If you have had similar experiences the first couple of days, don’t get discouraged. Most of the gobblers I have killed have been taken during the second week. So be careful out there and take a moment or two to observe all of nature’s blessing around you.

All of God’s creatures and plants combine to make May a prime time to be in the woods around the state.

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