According to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the two-week buck gun season used to be the most dangerous hunting season in the state.
That changed when the DNR mandated that hunters wear 400 square inches of blaze orange on an outer garment during any deer firearms season in the 80s. The state-wide spring gobbler season then became the most dangerous hunting season.
This year, the spring gobbler hunting season was a real achievement for West Virginia. For the first time since spring turkey hunting was implemented in the late 1960s, no fatalities or injuries were reported to the Law Enforcement Section of the DNR.
When I say no injuries, I mean "exactly that."
No one got shot, no tree stand falls, or falls on the ground that required medical attention and no one suffered a heart attack. It is also interesting to know West Virginia has not had a spring gobbler fatality since 2009. The mandatory hunter education course that went into effect in 1990 changed this dangerous situation.
We must keep in mind that spring gobbler hunting is a calling sport, because the real sport in this game is to be able to call the bird to come to you. All sorts of camouflaged hunters are trying to imitate the call of a hen turkey in an attempt to lure a gobbler (male) turkey into the effective range of whatever kind of firearm they are using.
In the years prior to this, it was difficult to get through the spring gobbler season without having double-digit hunting accidents and near double-digit fatalities. Careless hunters were shooting at just about anything that moved to the point of where is was about like suicide to go spring gobbler hunting.
This year's spring gobbler season started out slowly. There was steady rain statewide for the first two days of the four-week hunt that kept thousands of hunters out of the woods. However, there was good weather afterward. Foliage came out quickly on the trees which limited the visibility. This also increased the possibility for a shooting accident.
The hunter education classes that are mandatory for every hunter born on or after Jan. 1, 1975, have yielded really good results. This has to be the leading reason why hunting accidents and incidents have declined over the years.
There hunting classes are scheduled throughout the year at various locations across the state. Hunters can find information about these classes on the DNR website: www.wvdnr.gov/lenforce/education.shtm.
In summing up this year's spring gobbler season, I don't think anyone could say it any better than DNR Police Lieutenant Tim Coleman, when he said, "I think our hunters did a good job. I thank we have a lot of conscientious hunters out there; hunters who have a better understanding of safety."
If this is the case, let's see if we can get through the remainder of the year with no hunting accidents.
This would prove what I have said for several years, sport hunting is a very safe sport.
The WNDNR recently announced they want to develop a statewide walleye management plan to diversify and improve the walleye fishing opportunities in the state. For several years, I have recommended on the questionnaire the DNR puts out for the public in the spring that more walleye be stocked. Walleye fishing is becoming more popular among anglers statewide. I don't know how many fishing enthusiasts have told me this is the best tasting game fish in the state.
For this idea to be successful, the DNR fish biologists will have to have some cooperation from the walleye anglers.
All interested anglers need to complete a simple online survey. This survey can be brought up at www.wvdnr.gov/ and go to WVDNR Walleye Management. From there, click on the pictured walleye to take the survey. This survey will be available through June 15. I'm going to try to keep up with this plan in an effort to give a more comprehensive report in future columns.