The Outdoor Report

2017 Spring Gobbler Outlook

“Spring turkey hunters should enjoy quality spring gobbler hunting in 2017 throughout the Commonwealth,” according to Gary Norman, DGIF Wild Turkey Project Leader.

“The Spring Gobbler Survey report for the 2016 season gives our best forecast for the upcoming season. I don’t expect a significant change in the upcoming season harvest levels. As always, weather is a critical issue, namely weekend weather in the first 2-3 weekends,” Norman added.

 The Department’s Brood Surveys suggests reproduction has been average over the past 4 years.  Under these conditions populations are expected to remain stable.  Given that turkeys are believed to be at record levels for the Commonwealth, stable is desirable.

Norman says one negative issue is that turkeys are not uniformly spread across our landscape. Stable but low population levels are red flags that the Department is addressing with shorter fall seasons.  Unfortunately, we have not seen above-average recruitment in these problem areas for many years.

“The unseasonable warm weather in February has accelerated the signs of spring, including gobbling.  Some hunters have expressed concern that we will miss peak gobbling times this spring. My thinking on this concern is that March weather generally has more impact than February on the chronology of mating, egg-laying, incubation, and hatching, and it’s presumptive to think March will be as warm as February.  However, we can expect some early springs and 2017 may turn out to eventually be one,” said Norman.

While an early spring can accelerate reproduction, such conditions only move the timetable up by 10-14 days. Day-length is more critical to these biological processes than warmer temperatures.

“Starting hunting closer to nest incubation will improve, not detract from hunter success rates.  Currently, we start spring hunting at the peak of egg-laying (mid-April).  A 2-week advance in reproduction would start our season when most hens are on the nest and under these conditions; gobblers are typically more responsive to calling.  Our long (5-week, 6 weekends) season should capture this peak gobbling period.  If there is any impact, I expect to see it at the end of the 2017 spring season,” according to Norman.

“Finally, a mentor of mine, Mr. Jim Pack, retired Turkey Biologist for the WV DNR would always qualify his gobbler season forecast by saying “Good gobbling requires good weather”.  You may have seen me use that line before.  That’s definitely difficult to forecast but ever so true.  I would like to thank everyone that contributed to this survey and I hope you find it interesting reading. Best wishes to you for a safe and enjoyable spring season.”

The 2016 SGS Results and 2017 Survey can be found on the DGIF website.

Looking for great spring gobbler hunting opportunities? Read our Wildlife Management Area report »

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