By Mannix Porterfield
Fall turkey hunters hit the woods in greater numbers last year and checked in enough birds to post a 4 percent increase over the previous season.
Deer hunters couldn’t boast the same success.
In fact, with all phases of the deer hunt figured in, the kill was actually 3 percent under the 2011 totals, the Division of Natural Resources reported Tuesday.
Preliminary numbers provided by the DNR show that hunters bagged 1,233 turkeys in the fall season, compared to 1,186 checked in the previous year.
Assistant Wildlife Chief Paul Johansen says the explanation for the improved harvest in turkeys lies in a greater participation by hunters and better reproduction in the previous spring season.
“We had been going through a period of pretty dismal reproduction for turkeys,” he said.
“Wet, cool springs had kept reproduction down for a number of years. We’ve seen results of that decline in some of our spring gobbler harvest. This past fall, we’ve seen a slight increase in turkey abundance.”
Another factor that came into play was the improved food conditions, Johansen said.
“We had a fairly decent hard mast production, but it was spotty,” he said.
“It certainly wasn’t widespread across the entire state. Hunters who were able to do a a little bit of scouting and identify where the sources were abundant, acorns in particular, probably had a better chance of finding birds. I think that also contributed to the increase in the fall harvest.”
For the record, Greenbrier County hunters took 139, followed by Nicholas, 98, Randolph, 91, Monroe, 89, and Summers, 71.
Deer numbers saw hunters take 56,658 bucks, 45,169 does, 24,517 bow-killed does, and 5,046 deer shot in the muzzleloader season.
Johansen pointed out the DNR had been predicting a slight increase over the 2011 season, or, at the least, a match in the overall harvest.
“I think, overall, food conditions probably played a bit of a role in that,” he said.
“Food conditions were somewhat spotty, but where the conditions were good, where the acorns had hit, that tends to make deer somewhat less vulnerable to the hunter. Deer tend to be back where the acorns are and that is not necessarily as visible as in fields and along field edges. That contributed somewhat to the slight decline. But it certainly wasn’t a bust in terms of the overall deer season. We still had really good deer seasons. It was down somewhat, but not significantly. It’s certainly nothing to be alarmed about.”
The doe kill was 12 percent above 2011 while deer taken with muzzleloaders fell by 36 percent from the previous year.
Bow hunters felled 10 percent fewer deer from a year ago.
In the DNR’s District III, the totals were:
Fayette, 2,301 total deer; Greenbrier, 3,579; McDowell, 560; Mercer, 1,369; Monroe, 3,142; Raleigh, 1,688; Summers, 2,886; and Wyoming, 765.
Johansen said the numbers were off last year’s pace overall, but from a management perspective, the goal of bringing populations down in specific areas are paying off.
“They are down in areas where they are exceeding our management objectives,” the DNR official said.
“So, I think we’re seeing some success in terms of bringing deer populations down to levels that fall within the capacities of our individual counties. We manage deer on a county-by-county basis.”
October’s snowstorm was a factor in some counties where fallen trees blocked access roads and trails.
“Those access problems were somewhat localized and not statewide,” Johansen said.
“But it had an effect where it occurred. It’s going to take a while for all of that to clear out.”
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