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Fall turkey numbers could be down

September 29, 2012
By Kenneth Cob , The Inter-Mountain

The squirrel season has been in for three full weeks, and I have only talked with two people who have been squirrel hunting this year. One hunter had been out three times and got four squirrels on public acreage. He said one squirrel had a warble, but this does not bother him. It was just under the skin and not on the meat. Another hunter told me he has six squirrels, and none had warbles.

According to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the hickory nuts and beech nuts will be somewhat better than last year. The white oak is also looking good in some places. Field reports indicate mast is quite spotty this year - abundant is some locations and scarce in others. It looks like the bushytails hunters need to do some scouting to find some of these pockets of mast. Once one or two are found, the squirrels should be easy to hunt.

I remember reading a Skip Johnson report back in the early 1970s. Skip hit it right when he said in Kanawha County, there will be plenty of squirrels, but they will be well scattered and difficult to hunt. This was because there was an abundance of mast everywhere in this county, along with the counties that adjoin Kanawha.

At first, it was easy to get the impression that squirrels were scarce when they were not at all, because they were like what Skip said "well scattered."

Earlier this month, I was on a friends property in the Gilman area looking at his chestnut trees. About six of these trees were totally loaded with burrs to where the limbs were sagging. At first, I thought these were Chinese chestnuts, but my friend informed me there were Italian chestnuts. Regardless of what kind of chestnuts they are, my friend is going to have a few bushels of chestnuts this fall. This will be good for bear, deer and squirrel.

From some of the reports I have read so far, fall turkey hunters in this area could be in for a disappointing season this year. Brood and clutch reports are way down. This year's spring gobbler harvest was down about 10 percent from 2011. According to the DNR biologists, no one seems to know the reason for this decline.

Every four years, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service does its own study of hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers to see how many are active in these respective pastimes. According to the latest report that was released on Sept. 12, West Virginia had the 12th highest percentage of residents who hunt. From this report, 13 percent of the state residents say they participate in some form of hunting.

The leading state in this survey was South Dakota at 21 percent, with Alaska finishing a close second. Some of the states that were ahead of West Virginia were: Mississippi, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, Maine and Vermont.

In this area, West Virginia was ahead of all of its neighboring states. Kentucky was at nine percent, Pennsylvania at seven percent, Ohio at six percent, Virginia at five percent and Maryland at two percent. The states that finished with the lowest percentage came as no surprise. Those were California, Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

In the fishing pastime, West Virginia did not rank as high as hunting. Our 15 percent participation ranked 23rd. This is slightly better than the nationwide average of 13 percent.

In the fishing pastime, Alaska finished in the top spot. Forty percent of the residents who call their state the "Last Frontier" identified themselves as anglers. Minnesota, Mississippi, Wyoming, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Montana, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Idaho and Louisiana all had participation rates of over 20 percent.

Considering the fact that West Virginia is a land-locked state with only one natural lake (a one-acre pond in Hardy County) and countless small creeks, these figures are really nothing to be ashamed about.

All Mountaineer nimrods and anglers need to remember there are still many residents from other states who come to West Virginia only to hunt and fish.

If these people are willing to come to our state, pay our non-resident fees and comply with our laws, then they should be welcomed with the highest respect.

This is big money going into the DNR coffers and into the state's economy.



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