“Turkeys generally don’t gobble as well when their feathers are wet,” explained Larry Berry, retired wildlife biologist with the DNR in Beckley. “Turkey hunters generally take a day off when the rain is coming down.”
While rainy conditions generally are unfavorable to hunters, misty conditions and light rain can be an excellent time to hunt the long beards, according to Berry.
“Often a gobbler will become active during mid-morning under a light rain, so hunters shouldn’t give up. Gobbling activity likely will increase when clear weather comes.”
When there’s a lack of gobbling activity, hunters should change their locations, even leave, and return to an area a few days later, Berry advised.
“Hunters definitely should not give up, though,” he said. “Gobbler season begins at the peak of nesting, and as the season progresses more hens are busy and are not available to gobblers. The success of a morning hunt can increase as fewer hens are available to toms. Gobbling increases as males look for new mates.”
Turkey hunting is a sport rich in tradition that was begun long before settlers ever arrived in America.
Using the wing bones of the turkeys themselves, Native Americans hunted the wild turkey for food as far back as 4,000 years ago.
Upon arriving in the new land, this abundant bird was hunted for both food and sport and was part of the first Thanksgiving celebration between the pilgrims and Native Americans.
Surprisingly, though, this magnificent bird was almost wiped out by the early 1900s following a century of habitat destruction and commercial slaughter.
By the Great Depression, only 30,000 wild turkeys remained.
Today, thanks to our nation’s hunters, game agencies and wildlife conservation organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, there are more than 4.5 million wild turkeys roaming the continent in hunting populations in every state of the U.S. except Alaska.
In fact, turkey hunting is one of the most popular outdoor sports in the U.S. with nearly 2.5 million sportsmen considering themselves turkey hunters. There are now more turkey hunters in the U.S. than water-fowlers.
This amazing turnaround began in 1937 with the passage of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, which placed an excise tax on firearms, ammunition, and other hunting equipment. Since then, more than $4 billion has been raised for wildlife restoration and hunter education.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hunters spend more than $20 billion annually, money that provides revenue for wildlife and creates important jobs, helping fuel our economy.
The Mountain State and its neighbors stand to benefit from the restoration of the wild turkey.
The eastern wild turkey is the most widely distributed, abundant, and hunted turkey subspecies of the five distinct subspecies found in the U.S.
It inhabits roughly the eastern half of the country.
Individuals can also grow to be among the largest of any of the subspecies.
The adult male, called a gobbler or tom, may measure up to 4 feet tall at maturity and weigh more than 20 pounds.
The base of its long tail feathers is tipped in black.
Other body feathers are characterized by rich, metallic, copper/bronze iridescence.
The primary wing feathers have white and black bars that extend from the outer edge of each all the way to the shaft.
Secondary wing feathers have prominent white bars and are edged in white, producing a whitish triangular area on each side of the back when the wings are folded on the back.
A mature female, called a hen, may be nearly as tall but is usually lighter, weighing between 8 to 12 pounds.
Females are similar in color to the males but browner, and the metallic reflections are less brilliant.
Feathers of the hen’s breast, flanks, and sides are tipped with brown rather than the black and white tips of the male.
A rule of thumb for turkey hunters is this: never wear red, white,or blue clothing in the woods during spring gobbler season. This includes white socks that might become visible beneath a hunter’s pants when he is seated against a tree.
These colors are the same as a gobbler’s head and could make another hunter think he is seeing a turkey.
What is more, defensive hunting tactics are a key to being a safe hunter during turkey season, according to game biologists.
“Set up against a stump, tree trunk or rock wider than your shoulders,” Berry said.
“This will prevent a hunter from walking up behind you and detecting movement that could be mistaken for a bird.”
He added, “If another hunter approaches your calling site, never wave to him to get his attention. Sit still and call out in a loud, clear voice or cough to let him know that you are in the vicinity.”
Top o’ the morning!