Are you like one of thousands of turkey hunters nationwide that are truly ready for spring gobbler season? Or are you still making plans for West Virginia's Spring Gobbler Turkey season that runs from April 25-May 21, 2011? Seasoned veteran turkey hunters have already made the necessary plans and gotten ready their firearms and gear, shot and patterned their favorite shotguns with the turkey loads that they will be using. They already know: with whom, when and where they will be hunting. They already know about where the big toms are roosting.
If they are planning on taking out a new or young, first-time hunter, they've already coached them and have gotten them ready and familiar with the equipment they will use, fitted them head-to-toe in camouflage, watched several turkey hunting shows and videos, as well as made sure they have attended and passed a Hunter Safety Education Certification class. They probably have already taken their new hunters out on scouting trips, maybe even out on evenings to show them how to put a turkey to bed. If they have a new young hunter between the ages of 8-17 years old, they can take advantage of West Virginia's Youth Spring Gobbler Turkey Season, held on April 23, one morning only from a half-hour before sunrise until 1 p.m. 15-17 year olds need to carry a Junior Hunting License, photo ID and their Hunter Safety Certification. Youths 8-14 years old only need to carry their Hunter safety Certificate and be accompanied by an adult 21 years old. Adults cannot carry a firearm during the Youth Season. Only shotguns are legal firearms, using number four shot or smaller.
Veteran turkey hunters know to get written permission from the landowner well before the season starts. Ethical hunters will have their written permission slips, hunter safety cards, hunting license, photo ID, maps of the property they are hunting on with them. It is a good idea to walk the property before season to get familiar with roads, boundaries and try to avoid getting on adjacent landowners; something that is very easy to do in the pre-dawn darkness. If you are hunting on public or state wildlife management properties be sure to check for any requirements or permits needed for the area you intend to hunt. Also, the NWTF wants to remind all hunters to follow the ten commandments of firearms safety:
1) Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
2) Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
3) Be sure of your target and beyond.
4) Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions.
5) Unload firearms when not in use.
6) Never point a firearm at anything that you don't want to shoot.
7) Never climb a fence or tree or jump a ditch with a loaded firearm.
8) Never shoot a bullet at a flat hard surface or water.
9) Store firearms and ammunition separately.
10) Avoid alcoholic beverages and other mind altering drugs before and during shooting.
Also, all turkey hunters should apply the National Wild Turkey Federation's Turkey Hunter's Code of Ethics:
* Never let peer pressure or the excitement of the hunt, cloud your judgement
* Learn and practice safe hunting techniques.
* Hunt the wild turkey fairly and with respect.
* Know the capabilities and limitations of your gun or bow and use it safely.
* Positively identify your target as a legal bird and insist on a good shot.
* Obey and support all wildlife laws and report any violations.
* Respect the land and the landowner and obtain permission before hunting.
* Avoid knowingly interfering with another hunter and respect the rights of others to lawfully share the outdoors.
* Value the hunting experience and appreciate the beauty of the Wild Turkey.
This Spring, be aware of your surroundings, slow down for safety. When using decoys always be sure to:
Never transport decoys uncovered. Always transport decoys completely covered, preferably in a blaze orange bag/pack.
Always set up against a large tree or rock that is taller than your head and wider than your shoulders.
Establish a clear line of vision for at least 100 yards. Setup the decoys at twenty yards from your position.
If you see another hunter, call out in a loud, clear voice to alert them to your position.
Always check carefully that no one is stalking your decoys before leaving your position.
Wear blaze orange as an outer garment when moving from calling position to calling position or when moving your decoys.
Turkey Hunting is one of the safest sports in the world. In fact, more people visit the emergency room from playing football, baseball and basketball each year. Actually, you are more likely to have an accident while taking a bath/shower than you are hunting. Using a little common sense keeps you and other hunters enjoying this great sport for life.
As far as ethics go, a responsible hunter always helps the local authorities and Natural Resource Police by reporting any poaching activity. Locally call the Tyler county dispatch at 304-758-4275. Do not confront the violator. You can remain anonymous by calling.
Lt. Jon Cogar and WV-DNR Law Enforcement Section reminds us that there is now a new way to report poaching or criminal activities involving our state's natural resources of fish and wildlife.
The WV-DNR Law Enforcement Section has a web site to use at: http:// www. wvdnr.gov/ LEnforce/Pachers.shtm.
The NWTF urges everyone to report illegal activity and offers a reward of $200 that leads to the arrest and conviction of turkey poachers. Please report the following:
Anyone hunting before or after legal open season dates and times.
Hunting over bait; it is illegal to bait turkeys. Report any bait sites.
Killing more than the legal limit.
Killing an illegal turkey; must have a visible beard to be legal.
Disturbing a nesting hen on the nest or destroying a nest or taking eggs from a nest.
Time is running out. Turkey season is almost upon us. Do not wait until it is too late. Are you "ready and waiting" or "waiting to get ready". For more turkey hunting safety tips, contact the National Wild Turkey Federation's Website: nwtf.org or the West Virginia state chapter at: www.wvstatechapternwtf.com or to join the local NWTF chapter, contact the Middle Island Longbeards chapter by calling 304-758-4374, to attend a Hunting Heritage Banquet or attend a J.A.K.E.S. (Juniors, Acquiring, Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship) event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find a Hunter Safety Education Certification course, check out these two websites: www.wvhuntered.com or www.wvdnr.gov/lenforce/education.shtm.