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Hunting & Trapping

Crossbows Cleared for Fall Hunting Season in West Virginia

The Gilmer Free Press

WHEELING, WV — Two long talked about changes to the hunting regulations in West Virginia have been approved by the Natural Resources Commission.

During their May 3rd meeting in Wheeling, commissioners approved the 2015 hunting season dates and bag limits as they were proposed, but with two major changes.

One change moved the spring gobbler season for 2016 back a week.  For years, many hunters have complained the season starts too late.  Biologists have always maintained the season was deliberately set to open on the fourth Monday in April to insure hens are on the nest and less likely to be mistaken and killed by hunters. The season was also set to make certain the bulk of breeding by gobblers was completed.  The commission amended the proposal and moved the opening day of spring gobbler season next year to the third Monday in April.

The second major change was legalization of cross bow hunting in West Virginia. The measure was triggered by legislative action. House Bill 2515 which cleared the way for the reintroduction of elk in West Virginia also included the legalization of crossbows as a rider amendment. The two measures were folded together as part of last night of the session horsetrading in the House and Senate. The legislation called for crossbows to be legal in all big game firearms seasons and instructed the Natural Resources Commission to also establish a crossbow hunting season in West Virginia.

During the Wheeling meeting, members of the commission approved the crossbow season to start on the opening day of archery season and run until the end of the year, starting in the 2015 season.

The legislation did not require a crossbow license.  Therefore hunters choosing to use a crossbow will only need the necessary license required for bow hunting to be legal for using a cross bow.  Crossbows for many years were illegal in West Virginia, but were legalized for handicapped hunters a few years ago.

Crossbow hunting will be legal statewide in West Virginia with the exception of Mingo, Logan, McDowell, and Wyoming Counties.  Commissioners sought to preserve the restriction of hunting in the four coalfield counties to bow and arrow only, as it has been for several decades. Crossbows will not be allowed for hunting in those counties at any time.

~~  Chris Lawrence ~~

Dave Boyers Kills a Nice Turkey on 04.29.15

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Turkey Numbers Could Be Fewer For WV Spring Gobbler Season

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ELKINS, WV — The best gauge West Virginia Division of Natural Resources can go by tell us the number of spring gobblers killed in the state this year should be down. The four-week season opens on Monday statewide.

Biologist Keith Krantz says the late opening date in April means the average gobbler taken by West Virginia hunters is a two year old bird. Therefore, he looked to the 2013 brood report to determine what hunters might expect.

“The brood reporting two years earlier is a good indicator of that two year old age class,” said Krantz.  “In that year they were off about 30 percent from the five-year average.  That would tell us on a statewide basis it may be less than last year.”

However, Krantz is also careful to point out the brood reports from 2013 also had a higher number of birds in the mountain counties and the western counties of the state.  He expected hunters in those areas to find more activity.  The eastern panhandle and southern coalfields could be where fewer birds are ranging.

During the 1990’s soon after the DNR’s trap and transfer program turkeys were in high abundance.  The harvest each year for several years was setting a new record.  However, as predicted eventually the number of birds leveled off and the harvest became more and more dependent on other environmental factors like mast, off season reproduction success, and hunter participation.

“Between 1993 and 2002 we averaged a kill of 14,410 birds,” Krantz said. “From 2003 to 2014 we’re down to 10, 285.  That’s a significant decline in harvest.”

Krantz said the population of turkeys built steadily as birds were reintroduced to new areas which tremendous habitat.  Eventually, it all evened out and the overall numbers of turkeys came back down.  He added however, they saw a lot more hunter participation in those years because of the higher chances of success.  As the prospects for success became more challenging, many gave up and stopped hunting. He said that also has a significant impact.

“This is very dependent on hunter participation and hunter effort,” Krantz said. “If we don’t have the same level of hunter participation from one year to the next, these harvest numbers can fluctuate just based on that.  It’s kind of up to the hunters to begin with.”

Some complain West Virginia’s season arrives too late.  But Krantz said for many years the season was set deliberately late to insure those numbers stay at a health level.

“We’re one of the states that’s actually tried to set it closer to the peak of incubation,” he explained. “When at least half of the hens are setting on a nest.  Because the more hens setting on a next the fewer hens are running around with gobblers and a hunter mistakes them for a gobbler and shoots one.”

~~  Chris Lawrence - WVMN ~~

Gilmer County Man Charged with Illegal Turkey Kills

GASSAWAY, WV — A Gilmer County man is free on bond after members of the Natural Resources Police charged him with more than 50 counts stemming from illegal turkey hunting.

Clifford Fisher, 65, was arrested by officers on April 04, 2015 following a lengthy investigation.

Evidence collected in the course of the case revealed Fisher had long ignored West Virginia game laws for turkey hunting.

“I think the longer it went on he stated he’d never been arrested before,” said Natural Resources Police Sergeant Dwayne Duffield. “I could just tell he knew he’d been doing that for years and he got by with it.”

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The case began with several tips from the public about an illegal hunting site in a remote part of Gilmer County off the Gassaway Road near the Braxton County line.

Officer Caleb Harper followed up and managed to locate the bait site in March.

“Harper and some other officers had done some recon and found a baited turkey blind,” said Duffield. “It was a homemade type blind. It was suspected he had already killed one and possibly two turkeys from the blind based on evidence they collected that day.”

The officers found fresh turkey feathers at the site of the blind and later on the same property near a hunting cabin found a 55 gallon drum filled with feathers. Back at the blind officers also found a bucket of corn in the blind and corn scattered around the perimeter of the blind.

Harper decided to stake out the location in hopes of catching the suspect in the act. He enlisted the assistance of Natural Resources Police Officer Stevens out of Calhoun County, Officer Fitzwater out of Doddridge County, Officer Phillips out of Ritchie County, and Officer Wilson out of Roane County. During the course of several weeks one or more of the officers kept watch on the blind often starting their stake out as early as 3:00 AM.

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April 4th Harper and another officer were watching and two other officers were on the road providing backup when Fisher and his juvenile grandson were spotted in the blind. The officers approached the blind in what was described as a “tense situation.”

“As they approached the blind they could see a rifle barrel sticking out the window,” said Duffield. “He didn’t give up immediately and it was a little tense before they could get him out of the blind and get the cuffs on him.”

The officers obtained a search warrant for Harper’s cabin on the property and his residence. Very little was found at the cabin, including the barrel of feathers they had spotted earlier which was gone. However, the residence proved to be a treasure trove.

“A subsequent search of the residence turned up that barrel of feathers and a lot of older evidence of turkey feet and spurs in an out building,” said Duffield. “In his house we found two wooden boards with dates on them. A board marked 2014 had ten beards on it with individual dates on each beard. There was another beard marked 2005 with eight beards and individual dates. It was sort of his bragging board.”

Officers also turned up two fresh turkey carcasses and around 50 spurs and feet of turkeys.

Overall Fisher was charged with more than 50 game law violations. Broken down he faced 20 counts of illegal possession of wildlife, 12 counts of failure to check game, 7 counts of hunting during a closed season, 8 counts of exceeding bag limits, and one count each of hunting on Sunday, hunting over bait, and conspiracy.

Fisher’s case is pending in Gilmer County Magistrate Court. Each count carries a maximum fine of $300 and up to a year in jail.

“Our guys are out a lot of early mornings and it’s very difficult to locate these guys,” Duffield added. “I will say without tips and information from the public, that really gives us a lot to go on when we get that type of information.”

~~  Chris Lawrence ~~

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