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Monday, April 8, 2013
After leaving the sunny spring woods Saturday morning, Justin Mosby and his hunting partner - 7-year-old daughter Audrey - posed for the proverbial hero shot.
But not with a turkey.
It was just a picture of the two smiling hunters, who took advantage of Saturday's youth spring gobbler day.
"It has been a great opportunity for my daughter and me to bond and relate when in so many other matters of her life, we don't," Mosby wrote in an email Monday. "Taking her has been a tremendous experience for me."
Adult hunters who took hunters 15 and under out on Saturday, or who take them hunting any time, know what Mosby is talking about.
As much as hunting and the joy we get out of it is a personal experience, there is something extra special about sharing our passion with others.
Most of those who hunted on Saturday were like the Mosby team.
They got out there, maybe heard a turkey or two gobble, and eventually went home with only memories.
After all, turkey hunting isn't easy.
If it were, the successes wouldn't be as sweet.
Despite the challenges, plenty of young turkey hunters scored on Saturday.
Electronic checking tallies for the weekend showed that 522 turkeys were registered by hunters 15 and under.
That's just shy of the 547 turkeys registered on youth day last year.
Of the birds, 419 were mature gobblers at least 2 years old and wearing beards at least 7 inches long.
Ninety-eight, or about 20 percent, were juvenile male turkeys, or jakes.
The remaining five? Bearded hens.
Like their adult counterparts, the vast majority of youth hunters notched their tags using shotguns, which requires calling the birds into close range, typically 35 yards and closer.
While shotguns accounted for 482 of the birds, 36 youth hunters opted to use rifles, which are also legal.
One hunter used a muzzleloader, one scored with a bow, and two notched tags with crossbows.
Hunters 16 and older get their chance starting Saturday, with the season running through May 18.
Sharing the woods
The arrival - finally! - of spring weather has folks eager to get outdoors.
That means that hunters and others, be they anglers, hikers, mountain bikers or birders, often will be sharing the same ground.
In fact, one could argue that public land, particularly some tracts of Forest Service ground, gets more hunting pressure during spring turkey season than it does during the fall deer season.
How can that be when deer hunters outnumber the state's 60,000 turkey hunters by a margin of roughly five to one?
It's due in large part to the landscape, and how it affects hunting.
Most national forest land is dominated by mature hardwoods and isn't ideal habitat for whitetails or wild turkeys.
So the population density for both critters is on the low side.
For a public land deer hunter, that can often translate to long days in the stand with few deer seen. So most - roughly 90 percent - concentrate their hunting efforts on private land where deer densities are better.
If turkey hunters were stuck sitting in a stand and waiting for a tom to happen by, few would bother hunting national forest either.
But, because male turkeys gobble, that effectively shrinks the woods and increases the odds for turkey hunters.
Spring turkey hunters tend to be pretty respectful of one another on public land.
A hunter who finds a truck at the trailhead where he planned to hunt may grumble, but he will usually move on to find an area with no hunters. And with 1.6 million acres of Forest Service land in Virginia, that typically doesn't take long.
Spring turkey season provides ample proof that hunters and non-hunting outdoors enthusiasts can peacefully go about their pursuits at the same time and in the same areas. I'm guessing plenty of non-hunters don't even know there's a hunting season going on out there.
There are some basic safety rules for everyone to keep in mind:
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