Bob FalaOutdoors Columnist
June 1, 2013
West Virginia spring hunters just chalked up some 11,000 gobblers! This is no state record by any means, but a whopping 32 percent higher than last year’s generational low of 8,000 birds. After having languished for the first decade of the New Millennium, the second one is about time for mounting some serious population recovery. We can only hope that more of the same is in store.
The flock had topped out at a kill of about 18,000 in 2001 but had gone mostly downhill since then. In fact, the birds have kind of rolled with the drama of the U. S. stock market in a gambling type atmosphere. A return of tough winters combined with mast failure and cold, wet chick killing springs sometimes all in the same year were hard on them.
Out of concern, timely associated research was conducted here by WVDNR as supported by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). It revealed that the hunting kill of gobblers was not the culprit and that our harvest rate was sustainable and nominal in contrast to the neighbor states.
Instead, it seemed that the big birds just had to top out somewhere as the state’s forest and fields became saturated. That is, nary a decent Mountain State covert was without the big birds calling them home circa the New Millennium year of 2000. Around about that point, they may actually compete with each other for limited resources particularly when those sources are limited. In addition, a host of nest or flesh predators got to like this new food item on the menu.
So now it’s all up to Mother Nature and her control over the many effects of weather. For starters, there’s hunting season weather as it relates to that success. Now throw in the weather effects on mast crops, winter severity and even freshly hatched chick survival!
Whilst on that latter subject, we are at peak hatching time as you read this. So let’s hope for some sunny days for those little turkey-egg sized hatchlings. On the bright side, there should be ample greenery for cover and abundant insects to feed this next generation of turkeys.
The nicest thing however about this year’s population recovery is that it is so statewide in nature. The bounty as exhibited by increased kill was experienced in 52 of the 55 counties! What’s more, the local counties are becoming some of the very best the state has to offer. In testament, McDowell and Kanawha were bona fide top tenners. Logan, Boone and Lincoln are right there at just a notch below, knocking at that door.
Oft last but certainly not least, magnificent Mingo County posted a nice kill of 141 gobblers. This tops out some of the formerly famous hunting turfs and national forest counties the likes of Hardy, Hampshire, Grant, Pendleton, Tucker and Webster! My mom always used to say, the first shall be last and the last shall be first. For Mingo County, this one’s for you!
One final note, as of June 1, the Children and Handicapped pond facilities are available to the general public. This includes the Logan County airport pond locally.