This year's youth turkey season is the second weekend in April. JEFFERSON CITY-For hunters who get chills when they hear a turkey gobble, the opening of spring turkey season is Christmas and Thanksgiving wrapped up in one wonderful package. For Missouri youths, the holidays come extra early this year because of a fluke in the calendar. Since Missouri instituted its two-day youth spring turkey hunting season in 2003, the event has started nine days before the regular season opens. This year, however, this would have put young hunters and their adult companions in the woods Easter weekend. To avoid conflict with traditional family activities, the Missouri Conservation Commission moved the youth hunt back one weekend, to April 8 and 9. That means this year's youth season will open 16 days before the regular season. This is great news for young hunters, who are more likely to hear lots of gobbling during their special season. The amount of gobbling hunters hear always depends heavily on weather. Cold, rainy or windy conditions make gobblers less vocal. April weather is so changeable that a one-week shift in the youth season does not make much difference in the prospects for good weather. However, another factor will work in young hunters' favor this year. Missouri's regular spring turkey season always opens on the Monday nearest April 21. This arrangement is intended to give turkeys plenty of time to breed undisturbed while still allowing hunters to be in the woods when male turkeys are actively gobbling. Gobbling and other mating behaviors are triggered mainly by changes in light. It isn't unusual to hear the first gobbles on a sunny January morning, as birds respond to increasing day length. Gobbling reaches a crescendo the first week in April, when male turkeys are fully fired up and hens are just becoming ready to mate. Gobbling becomes less frequent around the middle of April, when hens are receptive to gobblers' advances. During this time, hens lay an egg a day and visit gobblers often to ensure that eggs are fertilized. Gobblers don't have to be so vocal to attract mates during this period. Toward the end of April, however, most hens finish laying eggs and begin incubating them. Finding themselves suddenly without much female companionship, toms gobble more frequently to attract the few remaining receptive hens. April 21 is the long-term average date of the second gobbling peak. The timing of Missouri's three-week spring turkey season is designed to give hunters from northern to southern Missouri the best chance of being in the woods during the second peak in gobbling activity. "Moving the youth season back a week puts the season right in the midst of the first gobbling peak," said Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer, who oversees the state's turkey management program. "That means kids should hear a lot of gobbling, all things being equal." But Beringer cautioned that all years are not equal. The exact timing of the first and second peaks in gobbling activity depends on weather and other, even less predictable factors. Warm, sunny weather can set turkeys' mating calendar forward as much as a week, while cold, rainy conditions can retard the process by a week. Local conditions also can have a profound effect on gobbling. "Sometimes you go out and hear lots of gobbling, and you think 'This is the second peak of gobbling.' Then you go a few miles away and you don't hear anything. Turkeys are a law unto themselves. That's part of why hunting them is so fascinating. No one ever completely figures out turkey behavior." Adult hunters will have to wait longer than usual to pursue gobblers this spring. To maximize turkey breeding success and hunting opportunities, Missouri's spring turkey season opens on the Monday nearest April 21. This means that in some years, including last year, turkey season opens as early as April 18. In others, like this year, it dictates an opening date as late as April 24.