In last week's article, we discussed the good news of no hunting fatalities or injuries during this year's spring gobbler season. This week, we are going to discuss the spring gobbler harvest, which to some sportsmen and women will not be looked on as being good news.
From the preliminary figures released on June 6, hunters checked in 9,017 bearded turkeys, according to the Wildlife Resources Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. This figure represents more than a 19 percent decline from the 2013 harvest of 11,162 and a decline of six percent from the five-year average.
Only District II had a harvest increase of 834 compared to the 2013 harvest of 798 or five percent. All of the other districts had big declines when compared to last year's harvest.
District III, which includes Randolph County, had a harvest of 1,143. This is down from the 2013 harvest of 1,584 or 28 percent. This district had a largest percentage decline of the six wildlife districts in the state.
The Chief of the Wildlife Resources Section, Curtis I. Taylor, says, "In most years, a significant portion of the spring gobbler harvest is composed of 2-year-old birds. Poor wild turkey reproduction in 2012 resulted in fewer birds of this age class available to hunters during the spring season." Taylor went on to say, "Biologists are hopeful this spring will continue to provide moderate-to-average rainfall to support above-average reproduction and allow wild turkey populations to expand."
The top five counties for this year were: Preston (344), Mason (297), Jackson (294), Wood (268) and Harrison (264). The harvest in all five of these counties was down considerably from last year. The state record for spring gobbler harvest is 17,875 set in 2001. It certainly would be nice if we could have a spring gobbler harvest like this once again.
I have had a few spring gobbler hunters to tell me the DNR opened the season too late.
The male turkeys had finished gobblering. This could be a factor the DNR game biologists might have to look into.
Another factor the biologists may have to give consideration is less hunter participation. According to DNR field reports, hunting pressure was down from what it has been in past seasons.
Randolph County had a harvest of 186 gobblers. This is down from 217 in 2013 or 14 percent. Keep in mind the spring gobbler harvest in Randolph County in 2012 was only 94, so things may not be quite as bleak as they may appear.
In other counties of local interest, the 2014 spring gobbler harvest figures include, Barbour, which was at 171, up from 162 or 6 percent; Grant at 143, up from 129 or 11 percent; Pendleton at 94, down from 117 or 20 percent; Pocahontas at 127, down from 160 or 20 percent; Tucker at 84, up from 57 or 47 percent; Upshur at 129, down from 262 or 52 percent; and Webster at 111, down from 118 or 6 percent.
To get future reproduction to increase, we need a good acorn crop. I have noticed that the oak blossoms were quite heavy this spring. For any wildlife species to make a comeback, there must be an adequate food supply. This is just a matter of simple logic.
In various locations throughout the state, oak was in abundance last year. In other locations, it was quite dismal. What the oak crop is going to be this year is now a wait and see situation.