Cumberland Times-News

February 22, 2014

Gobbler radar activated

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— With only 54 days until it opens, the Maryland spring gobbler season is officially on the radar.

Of course, for some of us, it blips throughout the year.

Yeah, there might be people skiing in Russia trying to win medals. Sure, the snowcover map may show us in the 2-foot-plus range. Right, some guys are still cleaning and storing their deer rifles.

But we’re talking 54 days here. That is less than two months, just a little more than seven weeks and only slightly more than two full moons away.

Those moons, by the way, will be the Worm Moon in March and the Pink Moon in April. Currently, the Snow Moon is waning.

As legislators play hacky sack with the state’s laws and as wildlife managers push and shove new hunting regulations this way and that, the turkeys are just being turkeys.

More than likely they are being turkeys in trees, riding out the winter snow cover in elevated positions, waiting for a thaw so that the ground and what little food remains will come into beak reach.

The turkeys made it through that Mother of All Winters in 2010, so I’m guessing that this frigid, snowy stretch we have encountered will be taken in feathered stride. I certainly hope so.

The spring gobbler harvest in Garrett County has been very steady since 2007, with a low that year of 303 birds and a high during that stretch coming in 2013 with 386.

In Allegany County, the harvest since 2007 has ranged from a low of 257 in 2012 to a high of 345 in 2008.

The past three springs in Allegany County have been stable with harvests of 287, 257 and 269.

The spring gobbler season in Maryland is a lengthy affair, starting on April 18, a Friday, and continuing through May 23, also a Friday.

In Garrett and Allegany counties, on both private and public land, gobbler hunting will be allowed on two Sundays, April 27 and May 4.

Through May 9, hunting may take place from one-half hour before sunrise until noon. From May 10 through the end of the season, hunting continues until sunset.

 This will be the third year that some afternoon hunting is available. In 2012, I hunted a few afternoons, finding them to be full of sweat and mosquitos and lacking in gobbles. I enjoyed the p.m. hunts, though, and look forward to learning more about them. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ll pass up gobblers if they come into range on May 9 or earlier.

I’ve never really understood passing up legal game animals that come your way, but then I hunted these hills when the squirrel was king of the forest.

The 2013 spring gobbler season in Almost Maryland was one of the quieter in recent memory. The most gobbling I heard was on one of the legal Sundays when every emergency vehicle in two counties went up and down U.S. Route 220 for 45 minutes a little after daylight.

And, although I heard what seemed to be a dozen different gobblers, I didn’t see a feather.

When I hear that many gobbles in various directions, I stay put, hoping that eventually one of the birds will move my way. Sometimes one does. But then, I stay put most of the time anyway and that relatively new tactic for me has proven to be very successful.

 Of course, I set aside numerous days for spring gobbler hunting, so if I am the bug one day I could be very well be the windshield the next.

This approach takes patience or sore knees.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at