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Virginia’s Spring Gobbler Season

With Virginia’s Youth and Apprentice gobbler season set for the weekend of April 6 and 7, and the regular season slated to begin on April 13, it’s time to tap the knowledge of Gary Norman, the DGIF’s forest game bird biologist.

“It’s hard to say anything for sure regarding turkeys,” Norman said. “In general, though, hunters can gain information about such things as gobbling and harvest per week, gobbling intensity, and gobbling by region from our Spring Gobbler Survey Report.”

Turkey hens are often bred before the season begins, and their presence or absence has a lot to do with gobbler behavior.

Again, generally, Norman says gobbling often peaks in late April to early May, but sometimes that peak can come earlier. Many things can impact the peak of gobbling and can include such phenomena as weather, hunting pressure, and previous hatches. For example, two-year-old toms often gobble the most aggressively, and a poor hatch two years before a season can result in less tom talk in a given year.

One of the reasons, Norman continues, that gobbling often increases in late April is because many hens are incubating eggs by then. Many hens are bred before the season even begins, and they slowly drop out of the breeding contingent as April progresses. These disappearing hens are what often can stimulate longbeards to gobble more.

Of course, that gobbling intensity doesn’t necessarily result in the toms being easier to harvest says Norman. The presence of jennies (one-year-old hens) can insure that the males don’t have to look far for romance. Jennies often don’t nest their first year, and they can remain with the gobblers well into May, frustrating hunters around the state.

A slate is an excellent caller to master for turkey hunting success.

So with all the vagaries of gobbling, weather, hen presence or absence, and turkey behavior, what’s the best advice Gary Norman can offer for the coming season?

“Don’t walk away from a tom that’s quit gobbling,” he says. “He may temporarily be with hens, but sooner or later many of them will go off to nest or lay an egg. And sooner or later, that gobbler will often come looking for the ‘hen’ he heard earlier. Three of the most important words in turkey hunting are patience, patience, patience.”

I have been participating in Virginia’s Spring Gobbler Survey Report for some 25 years and look forward to reading its data – and comparing it with my own experiences. To participate, contact Norman at gary.norman@dgif.virginia.gov.

  • March 2nd, 2019

One Shot 2018: Filling Tags and Memories

Aaron Hill, a 15-year-old from Big Stone Gap, Virginia, was this year’s winner of the One Shot with a bird that scored a 79 on the NWTF scale. His bird weighed in at slightly over twenty-one pounds, with a foot-long beard and nearly 1 ¾ inch spurs. On the bird of a lifetime, Hill never pulled the trigger. He pulled his bow back.  Here is his story and the One Shot.

Read the rest of this article…

  • May 4th, 2018

2018 Spring Turkey Photo Contest

Do you want to share your experience of the sun breaking the sky through the light foliage of early spring? Or the excitement of harvesting your record long-beard?  This year, DGIF is having a photo contest for spring turkey season that includes three categories, and winners of each category will receive prizes. The three categories include:

  1. Best Turkey Photo
  2. Best Non-Turkey Photo
    • Winning photo will not include a turkey, but will show the unique wildlife or scenery of Virginia that is seen while hunting afield. This can include wildlife from birds to bears, or a meadow of blooming flowers on a WMA to the hardwoods of a state forest. The prize will be a handmade leather DGIF wallet.
  3. Best Youth Turkey Photo
    • Winning photo will include a youth or apprentice turkey hunting, or with an ethically harvested turkey. The prizes will be a DGIF Bear Stamp hat and a handmade turkey tote from Bob Duncan, Executive Director of DGIF.

This is an Instagram-only photo contest. To participate and be qualified to win, follow us on Instagram, @virginiawildlife, and tag #vaturkey in your photo. Winners for each category will be selected at the end of the season, May 19, 2018. The contest will begin on youth and apprentice weekend, April 7, 2018.

We hope you have memorable experiences this season! Good luck, and don’t forget to tag #vaturkey in your photos!

  • April 2nd, 2018

2018 Youth and Apprentice Spring Turkey Hunting Weekend: April 7-8

The Youth & Apprentice Spring Turkey Hunting Weekend 2018 will take place on April 7 (statewide) and April 8 (private land only with the written permission of the landowner),  making a perfect opportunity to take a young person or apprentice hunter afield for a chance of taking a gobbler.

Resident and nonresident youth hunters 15 years of age and under or holders of a valid apprentice hunting license, when in compliance with all applicable laws and licenses, may hunt when accompanied and directly supervised by an adult who has a valid Virginia hunting license or is exempt from purchasing a hunting license. Nonresident youth of any age need to have the appropriate licenses (unless exempt from purchasing a license).

  • Hunting hours are from 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset.
  • Bag limit is one turkey (bearded bird only) per youth/apprentice hunter, per weekend.
  • Turkeys harvested by youth or apprentice hunters count against their daily and season bag limit.

Adult hunters accompanying youth or apprentice turkey hunters:

  • Do not need a deer/turkey license on this weekend.
  • May assist with calling. (Electronic calls are not allowed)
  • Shall not carry or discharge a firearm.
  • Shall maintain close visual and verbal contact with and provides adequate direction to the youth or apprentice hunter.

Remember Safety First!

Because turkeys have both keen hearing and sharp eyesight, camouflage is worn by hunters. It is essential for every hunter to positively identify their target and the area beyond their target, before pulling the trigger. Most hunting fatalities are the result of the hunter not making sure of his or her target.

See More:

  • March 12th, 2018

One Shot: Helping Tradition and Turkeys Thrive

The intrinsic passion shared among hunters will ignite a unique bond on the eve of the Old Dominion One Shot. A hunter, a guide and a landowner will convene for the first time before they gather afield just before sunrise on a dewy Saturday morning during the peak of spring gobbler season.  Read the rest of this article…

  • March 12th, 2018

Weekend Outdoor Fun: Youth-Apprentice Spring Turkey Hunting, Trout Heritage Day

This Saturday, April 4, is packed with ways to enjoy the outdoors!

Youth-Apprentice Spring Turkey Hunting

The special Youth-Apprentice Turkey Hunt Day is Saturday, April 4, 2015, for youth age 15 and under or Apprentice license holders regardless of age. Youth hunters between the ages of 12–15 must have appropriate valid hunting licenses. Hunters under the age of 12 are not required to have a license, but must be accompanied by a licensed adult. See the Department’s website or Hunting & Trapping in Virginia Regulations and Information digest for more information on Hunter Education requirements. The Youth-Apprentice turkey hunt is a great way for an experienced hunter to introduce a youngster to the great outdoors!

Be sure to check out the 2015 Spring Turkey Hunting forecast.

Trout Heritage Day

The trout fishing action at the Trout Heritage. Photo courtesy Lee Walker, VDGIF Manager for Outreach.Trout Heritage Day was established several years ago for those anglers who enjoyed and missed the old “opening day” tradition for Trout Season. Selected waters are stocked for the first Saturday in April to create an announced stocking event. To view the list of waters that will be stocked for Trout Heritage Day on April 4, visit our website.

Kid’s Fishing Day at Graves Mountain Lodge

Celebrate Trout Heritage Day with the kids in Madison April 4 when the Rapidan Chapter of Trout Unlimited and VDGIF partner with Graves Mountain Lodge the first Saturday in April for Trout Heritage Day and Kid’s Fishing Day. Several hundred trout are stocked along a private section of the Rose River, solely for children under the age of 12 to experience the joy of fishing. This popular event is just Saturday again this year and features educational exhibits and skill building activities for both novice and experienced outdoor enthusiasts. Come join us on April 4 to support Kid’s Day and Trout Heritage Day at Graves Mountain Lodge in Madison County adjacent to Shenandoah National Park. Check the VDGIF website for details.

  • April 3rd, 2015