DNR defends timing of spring turkey season

There is a running argument among turkey hunters in West Virginia.  The debate rages over the timing of spring gobbler season in West Virginia.   Critics say the state opens its season too late for hunters to maximize success.

DNR Wildlife Chief Curtis Taylor bristles at the notion.  He says West Virginia’s season is set biologically to protect the future of the wild turkey population.

“Our season is set to open when more than 50-percent of hens are sitting on the next,” said Taylor. “Gobblers are going to start gobbling as early as March, but hens aren’t going to do much with them until they are breeding and laying eggs and egg laying is going on right now.”

Some critics of the DNR’s policy on spring gobbler season point to neighboring states, particularly Virginia, who open their season several weeks before West Virginia.    The spring hunt started last Monday in Virginia.  

Taylor pointed to those states as well in defending his position.  He noted this year is later opening than Virginia has been used too.    He said biologists there found the early season is hurting the turkey numbers in their states, but they are handcuffed to do anything about it.

“A lot of states set their season based more on politics than they do on biology if you want to cut to the chase,”  he said. “If you talk to most of the turkey biologists and the folks in the know who’ve reviewed what we’ve done and are doing currently, they’ll tell you our season is set if anything a little too early based strictly on the biology of the bird.”

However, Taylor said there’s also another factor  often overlooked– hunting pressure.   West Virginia, per capita, has far more who will be in the woods for spring gobbler season than other states and it will impact the numbers.

“West Virginia has a lot of turkey hunters.  You don’t want to make a mistake and overharvest the gobbler segment of the population or get to the point you’re killing more jake gobblers than adults,”  Taylor said. “That’s what some of these states are seeing that open earlier.”

Taylor fiercely defended the season date policy and some hunters continue to fiercely criticize it.   So far however, public pressure has not impacted the Natural Resouurces Commission’s decision to set the season date each year. 

West Virginia’s spring gobbler season opens Monday and runs for four weeks.

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