It’s been a long time gone. That is, as in turning over centuries since Mountaineers from Logan County got a lawful crack at some fall turkey hunting action on their home turf. But that will change as of its first modern era, either-sex (hen or gobbler) hunt slated for Oct. 12-19!
For decades, local folks had to travel mostly to national forest or other far away and famed hunting haunts for a taste of Thanksgiving turkey of the wild variety. As signified by its recent spring hunting kill of 245 gobblers, the Logan Area (LA) flock now handily tops out many of those very famed national forest or hunt counties the yester-year flock likes of Webster, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, Grant, Hampshire, Mineral, Hardy and Tucker.
You read that right. If still in doubt, go to WVDNR on-line or head to a local license agent for a copy of this fall’s regulations for a look see. But then again, that’s what you have me for. The native wild turkey was extirpated here most likely from a combination of excessive subsistence hunting and a fairly rapid removal of much of their preferred forest cover habitat for either conversion to agriculture and/or for the timber itself.
For a trip down memory lane circa 1920 to 1930, the hills of Logan County’s Main Island Creek District looked a lot like total second growth. This scrub-shrub cover is plainly visible per the vintage photos that hung at the Cole and Crane Land offices at the town of Omar. No doubt a lot of this timber went to the mines for roof support and cribbing before the advent of “pinning” the mine roofs with steel bolts. At any rate, though it was hard to imagine, there was nary a producing hard mast tree big enough to produce nuts at that time.
My sources in other presently famous turkey haunts like Jackson County in the Ohio Valley indicate they were nigh all in cornfields about that very same time. These places were thus more suited to grouse and quail than turkeys. Nevertheless, the turkeys made their last stand at the West Virginia highland haunts of those famous highland counties mentioned at the onset. Good thing for us.
Thought the trees had grown back rather nicely by around the mid-Twentieth Century, restoration success was hampered then by decades of raising game farm or pen-reared turkeys. Early “turk-ologists” like the Mountain State’s own, late Wayne Bailey and others discovered that when true-blue, wild blooded birds were transferred from where they are to where they ain’t; so to speak, the rate of restoration was rather spectacular.
The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), timely formed in 1973, took up the financing of this proven trap and transfer program within and between the states and low and behold, there are now millions of the big birds. And that includes just about every nook and cranny of West Virginia where there is enough unpaved habitat to support them. Logan and Mingo were the last in-state counties to be planted with turkeys circa late 1998 and early 1999.
As you can see, they’ve done rather well here, way beyond the dreams of many including even Bailey himself who was a tad skeptical of his own home turf of southern West Virginia. Bailey’s successor in turkey restoration, Jim Pack urged me some 25 years back to get the local folks hunting so that each and every one of the 55 counties would tally at least one spring gobbler kill!
For all the folks that helped these big birds in some way, attended an NWTF banquet or purchased a hunting license and abided by the game laws, this one’s for you! And, may many a hearty gobble ring out in your neck of the woods.