Monday, April 23, 2007

Fall turkey season becomes hot topic

The Roanoke Times
Mark Taylor

During the past eight days, tens of thousands of turkey hunters have gone afield in hopes of connecting with a big gobbler. ...

...Yet some turkey hunters aren't happy with the way Virginia's turkey hunting has been going.

One of them is Richard Pauley of Daleville, who was among those hunters who tagged a gobbler this past week.

Pauley is part of a group of Botetourt County hunters who are making an interesting request to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

They want an additional four weeks of fall turkey hunting, to coincide with the peak times that deer hunters are afield.

The hunters, members of the Botetourt Longbeards chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, recently made that formal request in writing. . . .

This is an interesting twist in the very complicated recent history of wild turkey hunting in Virginia. . . .

. . . Pauley and his allies think turkeys could handle more pressure in the fall.

"There are undeniably many more turkeys today than 10 years ago, but the kill and hunter numbers have steadily dropped," they wrote in a letter to John Montgomery, chairman of the game department's board of directors. "This is not wise management of an abundant resource."

Survey data shows that there are now only about 60,000 fall turkey hunters, about 40 percent fewer than before the fall season was shortened.

That drop is not unexpected. . . .

. . .Ronnie Lambrich, president of the NWTF's Virginia state chapter, thinks the current six weeks of fall hunting suits them fine.

"Your hard-core fall hunters have sufficient opportunities," said Lambrich, who attended a recent game department board meeting to say the letter from the Botetourt group didn't reflect the feelings of the majority of the state's 8,000 NWTF members.

Pauley said the fall season doesn't just have to be for hard-core turkey hunters, though.

"I think we need the fall season as an incubation period for turkey hunters," he said. "The thing that's endangered is not turkeys, it's turkey hunters.

"We'd like to get turkeys and hunters together."

Pauley said many hunters, including youngsters, focus their hunting time during the primary weeks of deer season in November.

Allowing them access to turkeys, be it on turkey-specific trips or while deer hunting, might encourage them to become hard-core turkey enthusiasts, Pauley said.

"One you let that person become interested in turkeys, he or she becomes an ally," he said.

The game department is currently formulating a list of hunting regulations proposals. The initial list of issues under consideration doesn't include adding more weeks to the fall season.

Pauley said the Botetourt Longbeards have requested a public meeting with game department officials so they can make their case for expanding the season.

They won't have an easy time convincing department officials, not to mention plenty of turkey hunters, that killing more turkeys in the fall will be a good thing for the resource over the long term.

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