Virginia’s abundant population of wild turkeys entices many hunters to venture into the woods each Spring when the sound of the male turkey, or gobbler, fills the air. This year the Spring Gobbler Season in Virginia runs from April 14 to May 19. A special Youth Turkey Hunt Day will take place April 7, for hunters aged 15 and under. Turkey populations are projected to be good to excellent throughout most of the Commonwealth. According to Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Upland Game Bird Project Leader Gary Norman, “hunters should find good numbers of turkeys in good condition. Last fall mast crops were generally good and the past winter was unusually mild, so gobbling intensity should be good and hens should be in good condition for nesting.”
Spring Gobbler season is the favorite time of year for many hunters. Heart-pounding action takes place as a hunter must attempt to remain completely still while using a call to bring a male bird to within shotgun range. 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.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable day afield, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recommends the following safety guidelines for Spring Gobbler hunting:
- Because a gobbler’s head is distinguished by its bold white, blue and red colors, NEVER wear white, blue or red clothing – not even socks or undershirts – because a flash of white could be mistaken for a turkey. Even a red bandana or blue snack food wrapper could be misread in the woods during turkey season.
- Turkey hunters should wear blaze orange when walking to and from their calling positions and when setting up or moving decoys. Wearing blaze orange is always recommended. However, if you choose not to, tie a strip of blaze orange to a nearby tree to alert others of your presence.
- Choose a calling position that will provide you with a backstop as wide as your shoulders and will protect you from the top of your head down. A large tree is best. A small tree will not hide slight movements of your hands and shoulders and these movements may cause other hunters to misinterpret what they are seeing.
- When choosing a calling position, don’t hide so well that you cannot see what’s going on around you. Select a calling position with a good view of your surroundings and where the sun does not distort what you are seeing.
- Never shoot at a sound or movement. Wait until you have a good, clean shot at a legal bird.
- Never move, wave, or make turkey sounds to alert another hunter of your presence. Instead, call out in a loud voice and remain hidden, until the other hunter acknowledges your presence.
- Never stalk a turkey. Another hunter could be behind that gobble and those birds could be decoys.
- When you harvest a gobbler, carry it out of the woods draped in blaze orange. Otherwise, another hunter might just see the bird and not you.
By taking these basic precautions, hunters protect themselves and protect others. Bring home that gobbler safely, by following these guidelines. Also, remember to tag your bird by notching the appropriate tag on your license before removing it from the place of kill, and check your bird by calling 1-866-GOT-GAME (468-4263) or by using the internet www.HuntFishVA.com.