Spring gobbler harvest numbers up

On May 18, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) released the total 2018 spring gobbler harvest figures.

This year, the harvest was 12,274 gobblers, which is a more than a six-percent increase over the 2017 harvest of 11,534. According to the DNR, the 2018 Spring Gobbler harvest is a 15-year high.

Youth hunters harvested 431 turkeys during the one-day season on April 14. The top five counties were: Preston (553), Mason (468), Jackson (460), Harrison (440) and Marshall (417). Three of these five counties are located along the Ohio River.

It looks like Brooke County had the largest percentage increase. Last year, Spring gobbler hunters harvested an even 100 birds in that county. This year, spring gobblers hunters harvested 174 birds, which is a 74 percent increase.

When it comes to numbers, it looks like Marshall and Wetzel Counties had the biggest numbers increases this year. The harvest in Marshall County for 2018 was 417. This is up from 255, or 64 percent in 2017. The harvest in Wetzel County was 396. This is up from 244 in 2017, or 62 percent. Both of these counties, along with Brooke County, are adjoining the Ohio River.

Here in Randolph County, the harvest was 207. This is down from 248 in 2017 or 16 percent. The Randolph County harvest was the lowest since 2014 when spring gobbler hunters only took 186 birds.

In other counties of local interest, Barbour County had a spring gobbler harvest of 250. This is up from 204 or 17 percent. Grant was at 160, up from 145 or 10 percent. Pendleton was at 111, unchanged from 112 in 2017. Pocahontas was at 113, down from 143 or 21 percent; Tucker at 89, down from 97 or eight percent; Upshur at 334, up from 303, or 10 percent; and Webster at 129, down from 150, 14 percent.

For the past eight years in a row, the DNR Wildlife District 1 has had the highest spring gobbler harvest. This district takes in the entire Northern panhandle, along with Barbour, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Taylor, Tucker and Wetzel Counties. If I was going to be doing any serious spring gobbler hunting, I believe this is the area where I would go.

There are some public hunting areas in this district where the hunting would be prime. Among these include: Coopers Rock State Forest in Monongalia County, Cecil Underwood Wildlife Management Area in Marshall County and Lewis Wetzel Wildlife Management Area in Wetzel County. This is also a small section of the Monongalia National Forest in this wildlife district located in Southern Preston County.

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This summer, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, the West Virginia Farmers Market Association, and the WVDNR are going to try something new and exciting. Eight state parks are going to host “Farm-to-Table” dinners for the purpose of promoting locally-grown produce and food products at the park restaurants.

This should be a real treat, not only for the out-of-state visitors of our state parks, but for West Virginians as well. For the farmers or producers, this could be an excellent opportunity to grow and expand their businesses.

West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt says, “We are thankful that WVDNR Director Steve McDaniel and the DNR are willing to partner on this initiative.” The locations and dates for these dinners are as follows:

• Pipestem Resort State Park: Thursday, June 14

• Cacapon Resort State Park: Thursday, June 21

• Cass Scenic Railroad State Park: Thursday, Aug 2

• Chief Logan Lodge: Thursday, Aug 9

• North Bend State Park: Thursday, Aug 16

• Holly River State Park: Thursday, Aug 30

• Hawks Nest State Park: Thursday, Sept. 13

• Blackwater Falls State Park: Thursday, Sept 27

When I showed this news release to my wife Ruth, the first thing she said was, “Can we go to one of them?”

The only thing I could say was we’ll see.

For more information about this project, go to wvstateparks.com/farm-table.

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