This year’s merciful (May 19) ending to the spring gobbler season couldn’t come soon enough. That is, for the remaining diehards that still pursue the big birds. Interest has been waning for several years now for a variety of reasons. In testament, there’s both the lack of early morning, camouflaged dudes at the carry-out joints working their turkey calls over coffee and the conspicuous absence of parked cars along US 119 which traverses some mighty fine turkey turf. So what’s the story?
For starters, the flock numbers are roughly half what they were just a few years back. Now throw in some record early profuse green, jungle-like, sweltering hot, humid and rainy conditions into that low population mix. Then it’s no wonder even the most sexually mature gobblers are getting hot and bothered in the literal but not necessarily lovelorn sort of way. Bottom line, there’s not a whole lot a gobblin’ goin’ on out there!
That more than anything else is the spring turkey hunter’s worst enemy. Turkey hunters are savvy enough to know their chances of getting a bird any given day are quite slim. They do however love to hear gobbling and work gobblers in calling bouts even though they don’t get one. So maybe that’s why coffee juiced gobbler hunters begin to take on the look of turkeys this late in the season.
But all kidding aside, the overall flock numbers are mostly beyond the control of mortals. The experts concede that weather and related factors from poult survival during cold wet springs, overall vitality and winter survival per hard and soft mast victuals and on all affect bird abundance. Since around the turn of the New Millennium (remember Y2K) we’ve had mostly bad news bears, I mean turkeys in this arena.
With the Mountain State’s ultra-conservative spring and fall hunting venues, the hunting kill is conceded to be nary a factor. There’s a wealth of research findings behind that. Nevertheless, spring just seems to be arriving earlier and earlier over the long run. Folks over fifty years of age or so generally concede these earlier springs and warmer times.
Turkey hunters are perhaps more keenly aware of the earlier spring effects than most. Many contend the hunting season should do likewise. Again, this year, it is one of the most frequently made requests during the March public meeting circuit. Some relief there would be small favor for a group of hunters that has given disproportionately to the tune of over a million dollars to DNR over the past score of years alone through their National Wild Turkey Federation’s (NWTF) State Chapter.
In response, the civilian Natural Resource Commission finally directed DNR to come up with some future alternatives regarding an earlier spring opening at its April 29 session. A couple of banner spring brood years and some fine tuning of the hunting prescription may be just what it takes. That is, to get this tepid turkey thing back into torrid status.