2004 Turkey Harvest Lowest Since 1967

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The unofficial fall wild turkey harvest in 2004 was 1,295, according to Paul R. Johansen, Assistant Chief of Game Management in the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. The kill was 30 percent lower than the 1,841 reported in 2003 and was the lowest fall harvest since 1967.

The top five counties during the fall season were Monroe (164), Greenbrier (138), Preston (125), Hampshire (122), and Hardy (114). Of the four Division of Natural Resources (DNR) districts open to fall hunting, District 2 in the Eastern Panhandle had the highest kill with 485 birds reported, followed by District 4 in the southern part of the state with reports totaling 302. District 3, which contains the Monongahela National Forest , ranked third with 266 birds checked, and last was District 1 in northern West Virginia with 242 birds reported. Of the four districts open to fall hunting, the kill was up 15 percent in Districts 1 and 2, with lower kills reported in Districts 3 and 4.

“We have observed a 4-year decline in our combined fall and spring harvests in West Virginia ,” said Johansen. “The primary cause for the decline in harvest this year was due to 25 percent fewer counties open to fall hunting and abundant oak mast in many areas, which made it more difficult for hunters to locate birds.”

When the harvest is compared to last year in counties that were open both years, the kill declined 4 percent. A lower number of counties were open this fall because two poor brood years in succession has lowered the base population in many areas of the state. Although brood production was better this year than the preceding two years, production was still poor in the high mountain counties where the Monongahela National Forest is located. Poor brood years and severe winter weather, especially during the winter of 2002-2003, have reduced the base wild turkey population here more than any other area of the state.

The Division of Natural Resources is presently researching the gobbler population to find answers to better regulate the wild turkey resource.