Three days from now, we West Virginians will celebrate the Christmas holiday.
Families will gather, gifts will be opened, food will be eaten and everyone will take a much-needed break from the stresses of the workaday world.
We outdoors enthusiasts will, no doubt, spend our time daydreaming how we’ll use all the neat gadgets and gewgaws we’ve received.
We’ll test the flex in that new fishing rod. We’ll clean and oil that new rifle. We’ll try on those new camo clothes. We’ll put a finer edge on that new knife. We’ll remove the gear from our worn-out old backpack and transfer it to the new one.
In short, we’ll be doing things that benefit us personally.
There’s nothing at all wrong with that. But what if we could receive gifts that benefit the outdoors community as a whole? Wouldn’t that be great?
With that in mind, I’ve written down a Christmas wish list that, if all the wishes came true, would make a lot of us really happy:
• A mild winter. This fall’s relatively abundant acorn crop should help most of the state’s deer survive even the rigors of a hard winter.
Unfortunately, a lot of deer got sick last fall with epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD. The outbreak killed many of those it afflicted, but many others survived. They’re heading into the winter weaker than usual. A mild winter could help them survive.
- A warm, dry spring followed by a wet summer. Newly hatched turkey poults have a hard time surviving cold, damp conditions. A warm, dry spring could help more poults live long enough to become jakes and jennies.
So could a wet summer. Dry summertime conditions cause turkey hens to take their poults on long journeys to find water. Some poults inevitably die of thirst. A wet summer would help.
It also would benefit the fish that live in the state’s creeks and rivers. In small streams especially, long dry spells make fish much more vulnerable to predators. A wet summer would go a long way toward making last summer’s drought a bad memory.
- A quick, reliable test for chronic wasting disease. Not only would this help researchers figure out how widespread CWD has become in the Eastern Panhandle counties, it would also help reassure hunters who might be unsure whether the deer they killed is infected or healthy.
- A mechanism for preventing West Nile Virus in grouse. Researchers have identified a strong connection between the presence of WNV and grouse-population declines. Let’s hope they also find a way to prevent mosquitoes for carrying the virus, or, better, find a way to make grouse more virus-resistant.
- A trout-management plan everyone can embrace. Fisheries officials hope to have a new plan in place by January 2021. Let’s hope they’re able to balance the wants and needs of wild-trout anglers with the wants and needs of stocked-trout anglers.
- A steady, reliable source of elk for West Virginia’s restoration effort. One hundred elk is a decent start, but state wildlife officials had hoped to have many more than that roaming the landscape by now. The logical source would be Kentucky, which has a huge herd already acclimated to the Appalachian landscape. Here’s hoping Bluegrass State authorities will be willing to share some of their elk with their Mountain State counterparts.
- A resolution on the buck-limit issue. Should it remain at three? Should it be two, or one, even? I frankly don’t know, and don’t much care. I just want the issue to be settled, and for all the bickering, backbiting and political chicanery to stop. We’ll all be better off.