SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. — The wind whipped and a stream of cold rain managed to escape the brim of my floppy hat and find its way under the collar of my rain jacket. I shivered as I strained my ears to listen to even a distant answer to the calls my hunting partner Kent Hall was sending out. Kent, an accomplished turkey hunter from Summersville, W.Va., is in the woods every day during the spring gobbler season, even days like this one–the third Saturday of the West Virginia season–when the prospects were grim.
“I think they have a tendency to stay on the roost on a day like this. They don’t need to feed today,” Hall told me in an interview in the driving rain on a ridge top in Nicholas County. “When the rain is falling and the ground is this saturated, they don’t like to gobble and they don’t move very much in this.”
True to his prediction, despite repeated attempts to locate a gobbler on the dreary day near Summersville Lake, none were interested in Kent’s sweet calls.
This year, for a second straight year, the season opened a week earlier. The timing enabled those hunters who were in the woods early to have the advantage of fewer leaves. A sudden green up across the state during the second week of the season changed things rapidly.
“If the foliage wasn’t as thick, they’d move a little more,” said Hall. “With their eyesight as keen as it is, they’re not going to move a lot today.”
Hall has seen a lot of changes in turkey activity in the last decade in West Virginia. Although the numbers of birds continues to be at a strong level, he believed the increased presence of predators, like coyotes and bobcats, has caused turkey behavior to change.
“You can get in an area and owl hoot and maybe have an owl answer you and get a gobbler to sound off and you’ll hear three or four coyotes start barking,” he said. “I’ve had that happen and when I move to set up, you’ll have no idea a coyote is there–and you’ll hear them barking again and you can tell they are right under that tree looking at the gobbler. He’s thinking, ‘I’m not coming down.'”
Rainy weather, increased predators, and thicker foliage made for difficult conditions pursuing a game bird which is already a tough hunt to begin with. But hunters were finding birds and success. The final report on the spring gobbler harvest is expected in the coming days.