West Virginia’s recently completed fall turkey season ended pretty much the way biologists thought it would.
Which is to say, on a slightly down note. Hunters killed 1,113 birds during the four-week hunt, 8 percent fewer than the 1,215 they bagged the year before.
That came as no surprise to Division of Natural Resources biologists. Even before the season began, they anticipated a small downturn in the harvest.
They based that prediction on data gathered during the summer, when DNR observers saw 43 percent fewer turkey broods than they did in 2018. It was the second-lowest brood total in the last five years.
Mike Peters, the DNR’s game bird biologist, believes an upturn in the state’s acorn crop also contributed to the decline.
“Good mast conditions can disperse [turkeys] across the landscape and make it more difficult for hunters to harvest a bird,” he explained.
Some hunters — and even a few biologists — had worried that opening a fall season in all 55 of the state’s counties would cause the turkey population to decline. Peters said that does not appear to have happened.
“This is the fourth year all 55 counties had at least a one-week season, and the second year that Sunday hunting was permitted in all 55 counties on both private and public lands,” he added. “This increase in opportunity seems to be having little impact on our wild turkey populations.”
As might be expected, four of the five top-producing counties were among those where turkey hunters enjoyed four-week seasons. Greenbrier County led the way with 65 birds, followed by Randolph, 61; Monroe, 56; and Nicholas, 51.
Somewhat surprisingly, Upshur County — which had only a two-week season — cracked the top five. In fact, it finished third in the state at 59.