Putting a wrap on WV's spring turkey hunting

At the time of penning this article, I was sitting alongside my son Jack at an airport terminal awaiting a flight back to the West Virginia hills of our home. A glance out the airport window revealed the front range of the Rocky Mountain and most all peaks were covered with snow.

The reason for our travels was our annual pilgrimage to chase a game bird — the wild turkey.

This year, we accepted an invitation to the grain country of western Nebraska to hunt turkeys on the flat lands filled with cows, wheat and alfalfa hay. Although void of the hardwoods we were accustomed to, the wide open, prairie terrain and amount of game seen made for an excellent adventure.

The weather, however, made the hunt simply difficult. On a three-day hunt, it rained, snowed inches covering the hunting grounds with a white blanket that caused slipping and sneaking a very difficult task and the wind — wow, did it ever blow.

Having said that, it was nice to hunt a subspecies of our favorite game bird and to have our lungs filled with crisp mountain air provided by the winds over the Rockies. The hunt also marked the end of my nearly three-month spring turkey season. Starting in Florida with stops along the way in Ohio, Idaho and Nebraska not to mention plenty of mornings spent in my favorite place on earth to hunt wild turkeys — my hillside farm in Fayette County, West Virginia.

During my travels, I received a note from our WVDNR with a report-card style message about how we did collectively as a group hunting spring turkey in our hills of home. The report showed that preliminary data indicates spring turkey hunters harvested 11,210 gobblers this year, according to Mike Peters, Game Bird and Small Game Project Leader for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Although 9% less than last year, this year's harvest is still 3% above the 5-year average and 9% above the 10-year average.

Districts 4 and 5, encompassing the southern and southwestern counties, reported slight increases above last year's harvests with the remaining districts harvesting fewer birds than last year.

Hunters in District 1 in the northern part of the state harvested 656 fewer birds than last year, a 20% decrease. However, the counties in District 1 harvested the most birds again this year (2,762), followed by District 6 (2,362), District 5 (1,839), District 3 (1,659), District 4 (1,521) and District 2 (1,067).

The five counties with the highest harvest were Mason (464), Preston (455), Jackson (447), Wood (362), and Harrison (347).

Youth hunters harvested 357 turkeys during the oneday youth season April 13, which was 74 fewer than last year.

They called our flight number and my son and I boarded the plane. With the Rockies in the background, we lifted off toward home and I felt a sense of relief and also a sense of anticipation for next spring when once again I hope to have a chance to walk the woods in search of a gobbling turkey.

For that, I gave thanks. It was time to go home. Spring gobbler season is over for me and summer is soon upon us.

Chris Ellis of Fayetteville, W.Va., an outdoorsman and Marshall University graduate, is owner of Ellis Communications, a public relations agency serving the outdoor industry. Contact him at chris@elliscom.net.

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