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Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Spring gobbler hunters want more habitat management on public lands in Virginia, including the 1.7 million-acre George Washington and Jefferson National Forests and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' 203,000 acres of Wildlife Management Areas.
Hunters are calling for additional timber harvesting, prescribed burning, wildlife clearings/food plots and brood cover.
This has been a key finding during the ongoing development of a Virginia Wild Turkey Management Plan by the DGIF in cooperation with the Virginia Tech Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation.
A prominent feeling in Virginia and beyond is that the turkey boom, created by trapping and relocating wild birds, has crested; thus, it is time to embrace new management challenges. Mentioned most often are improving the habitat and safeguarding the hunting heritage by recruiting new hunters and expanding opportunities to hunt. These also are goals of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Habitat improvement could be the best thing to come out of the plan. Preservationists have stymied timber harvesting and other management efforts on our national forest by convincing an urban audience that the woods are under assault by loggers. Hunters, for the most part, have stood back and let the lie go unchallenged. A suggestion that DGIF improve its relationship with the U.S. Forest Service is an excellent one.
The need for more habitat management was underscored last spring during nine focus group meetings that attracted more than 200 participants who were asked what they would like to see in the management plan. Out of those groups, 13 stakeholders were selected to be major participants in the plan while working with a technical committee composed of wildlife biologists. Thus far, there have been two daylong meetings.
The development of the plan comes at a time when the turkey kill by hunters has been stable or in decline in many states. Getting the blame is the lack of habitat, frigid spring weather that harms hatching success, poor mast production, predators — especially by coyotes — and a decline in the number of hunters.
You can't do anything about the weather, and not much about predators. You can enhance the habitat, which will help turkeys deal with predation and other factors that cause population fluctuations.
As for a decline in hunters, this can be reversed by introducing youngsters and other first-time hunters to the joys of pursuing turkeys and by expanding opportunities to hunt.
Focus group participants also had other likes and dislikes:
These and a great deal of other factors are being mulled over by the stakeholders, who are an interesting group of people. You can see their names in my Field Reports.
During the coming summer, the public will be given an opportunity to express opinions on what should go into the management plan.
For updates on the planning process, check http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/turkey/management-planning-process/
Your comments/questions welcome email@example.com.
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