West Virginia's spring gobbler hunting season is now in high gear. The season opened on Monday and will close on Saturday, May 18.
Gobbler hunters are quickly finding out the 2013 spring turkey season is not going to be like the 2012 spring gobbler season.
Last year, the spring green-up came early, but this year's winter is still hanging on in several places. I was at the April Izaak Walton League dinner meeting this past Tuesday. One outdoorsman told me there was still some ice on Spruce Knob Lake last Saturday.
This late appearance of spring will most likely enhance the distance hunters will be able to hear, see and take a gobbler. The peak of the gobbling could be at the end of the month or early May.
On any average year, more than 50 percent of the spring gobbler harvest occurs during the first week of the season. Last year, there was some snow on the ground during the first week.
While it does not affect the gobblers, it does make things more difficult for the hunters. Here could be the leading reason why the harvest was down in 2012. This year, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is predicting an improvement over last year's harvest of 8,303 birds. Like always, the weather will be a crucial factor.
The youth spring gobbler season was April 20. Those who participated in this hunt had to be at least eight years old but no more than 18 years of age on the day of the season.
Youth hunters 15-17 years of age who participated in the hunt had to comply with all applicable licensing requirements. Hunters under 15 years of age must be accompanied by a licensed adult at least 21 years of age. The bag limit was one bearded turkey.
Last year, youth hunters bagged 432 gobblers, which was up 10 percent from the 2011 harvest of 392. I have not seen a harvest figure for this year's youth gobbler season.
Curtis Taylor, chief of the WVDNR Wildlife Resources Section, reminds citizens that the Natural Wild Turkey Federation will pay $200 cash reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction of anyone who illegally kills or possesses a wild turkey. The NWTF will also pay $100 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction of anyone attempting to kill wild turkeys with the use of bait or who willfully destroys the nest or eggs of wild turkey.
The cooperative effort between the NWTF and the DNR will hopefully curtail or slow down illegal activities associated with the state's wild turkey resource. The public is urged to report this to the local Natural Resources Police if they see someone illegally killing a wild turkey or know of a person attempting to take a wild turkey with the use of bait. By reporting these poaching incidents, the public can make a significant contribution to the state's wild turkey program.
From the information I have been able to gather up, West Virginia is one of three states that permits hunters to use rifles during the spring gobbler season. I personally have no objection to this, but the nature of this game or sport is to be able to call the bird to come to you. When I was at the Izaak Walton dinner meeting, I talked with several hunters who are vehemently opposed to the use of rifles during the spring gobbler season. One person, whom I have known for years, came out and said, "This is someone who does not know how to hunt spring gobblers."
Speaking of the Izaak Walton League, the ramp dinner was great. Several of those who attended were shoveling everything in like they hadn't had a thing to eat in a week. For me it's like what I have said before, I can eat ramps; but I just don't get excited about them like some people do.