Saturday, April 11, 2015


Spring is an experience of rebirth, an exercise for the senses.  Rich aromas and dramatic sounds clutter the landscape, but none is more impressive and melodramatic than the thunderous boom of a gobbler announcing its presence to the countryside.  His intended audience is a willing mate, but the loving echoes beckon hunters to the woods, and this year they are liable for great success.

Photo by David Coffman.
    This year, the spring gobbler season in Virginia opens on April 11 and runs through May 16.  During the first part of the season—from April 11 through May 3—legal shooting hours span half the day, from a half hour before sunrise till noon.  The latter portion—starting on May 4 and running through the end of the season on May 16—offers hunters the full day, from a half hour before sunset until sunset, to chase gobblers.

    Despite the 2014-15 turkey hunting seasons’ 44-percent deficit over last year’s seasons’ harvest numbers, DGIF Wild Turkey Project Leader, Gary Norman believes the Commonwealth’s wild turkey population to be in excellent condition, as participants in the annual August Brood Survey reported record numbers of broods and birds.  The population has exhibited a consistent annual growth of two percent throughout the last decade.

Photo by David Coffman
    This is positive, considering the potential for much more dramatic population variances.  Because wild turkey lay and incubate 10-12 eggs after mating, the weather during the month-and-a-half-long period during which the eggs are incubated and the chicks are growing and learning to fly--beginning sometime in early May--is the crux of population growth.  Wet, humid conditions improve scenting conditions, thus increasing predation opportunities for nest-robbers and poult-nappers like raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and bobcats.  After the chicks are hatched, extended periods of moist, cold weather are dangerous until the newborns are old enough to maintain their body temperatures.

    Hunter success rates have been proven to reliably mirror these variables with a two-year lag time for maturation.  Such was the case in 2013, when a record harvest number of 19,265 birds correlated directly with a record poult recruitment estimate in the spring of 2011.

David Coffman with a big bird!
    Looking ahead to the coming season, one can only speculate about the weather.  However, in studying the reproductive success of Old Dominion turkey in 2013, hunters can confidently expect to observe a great increase in gobblers afield in 2015.

    Of even greater encouragement are the potential consequences of last fall’s heavy mast crop, which made deer hunting difficult.  Biologist popularly hold that turkey gobble more frequently and enthusiastically when they are in peak physical condition.  Given the density of high-energy acorns present through the fall and early winter, and the relatively short-lived bouts of winter weather, the Commonwealth’s turkey population should be feeling vocal and ready for love this spring. 

The 2015 Virginia Governor’s One Shot Turkey Hunt

    The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Wildlife Foundation of Virginia invite hunters and outdoor enthusiasts to the First Annual Virginia Governor’s One Shot Turkey Hunt to be held April 17 and 18—the second weekend of spring gobbler season—based out of downtown Richmond.  The inaugural event is designed in celebration of turkey, hunting, and the rich spring sporting tradition that is an integral element of Virginia’s heritage. 

    The festivities begin Friday night at the brand new VDGIF headquarters building located at 7870 Villa Park Drive in Richmond, where hunters and guides will pair up and make plans for Saturday’s hunt.

    Hunter-guide teams will hunt a variety of private properties across the state loaded with gobblers until noon on Saturday.  The event will draw to a close Saturday night with dinner, music, and an auction at the NewMarket Pavilion in downtown Richmond.

    The registration fee for hunters is $1,000 and includes all activities for you and a guest, as well as some great gifts.

    Come out and be a part of this long-awaited inaugural event that is sure to become a treasured tradition!

*Originally published in the Rural Virginian

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