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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

Bear, Deer, Turkey, Harvest Data

2018-19 Bear, Deer, Turkey, Harvest Data Announced

Wildlife biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have compiled the preliminary figures for the 2018-19 fall/winter hunting season. The Virginia bear harvests reflected a slight decrease but still the second highest harvest of bears ever in Virginia; deer harvests reflected a slight increase, and the turkey harvests remained about the same.  According to Dr. Gray Anderson, Wildlife Division Chief, “The annual variation in harvest is normal and most populations are healthy and on-track with long-range management plan objectives.” These harvest data are used to inform future regulatory decisions.

For details on the deer, bear and turkey harvest data, visit these links:

  • February 20th, 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 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

2017-18 Bear, Deer, Turkey, Harvest Data Announced

Wildlife biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) have compiled the preliminary figures for the 2017-18 fall/winter hunting season. The Virginia bear and deer harvests reflected an increase from last year and the black bear harvest was the highest ever recorded in Virginia.  Read the rest of this article…

  • February 23rd, 2018

2016 Acorn Production Varies By Region

shutterstock_510076396Over 200,000 hunters will take to the woods this fall in search of deer, turkey, and bear as well as a host of smaller game species.  One thing all of these hunters need to know is the importance of acorns in the diets of the game they hunt.  Acorns are a nutritious food providing protein, fat, and energy in the diets of 90 species of game and non-game animals in Virginia.  As such, they are a staple food for Virginia’s wildlife, providing important resources to meet the physical challenges of winter weather and reproduction in the following spring. Read the rest of this article…

  • November 8th, 2016