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Hokie Half Marathon coming Sept. 15.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Spring turkey season can be a grind.
As the weeks progress the sun rises earlier and earlier, requiring the alarm to go off earlier and earlier.
Gobblers that make it through the first few weeks of the season get wise, becoming more wary of those hen calls that sound just a little different from real hen calls.
But hunters who stick with it can be rewarded.
On the final day of the season Saturday, Dave Simmons and his son, Noah, of Roanoke County headed out with Dave's best friend, Travis Ferguson of Franklin County.
Hunting in Franklin County, they struck a bird at 6:15 a.m., but that was just the beginning.
"He was gobbling from 6:15 to 9:20 a.m. and would not budge," Dave reported via an email.
Of course the bird was on the highest spot on the property.
"It felt like we did the equivalent of McAfee Knob four times attempting to get to him," Dave continued.
A combo of a Primos gobbler shaker and a box call finally did the trick, with Travis calling in three longbeards. Triggerman Dave did his part and the spring turkey tally grew by one.
Just where did that tally end up?
Officials with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries crunched preliminary numbers on Monday, and came up with a total of 19,247.
That's nearly 1,000 birds north of the previous record of 18,325 recorded in 2002.
That was the final year before Virginia began offering a youth-only turkey hunt on the first Saturday in April.
This season's youth day accounted for 522 birds, and even without those the total would have been a record.
While looking back 11 years provides some historical context, it's most interesting to look at how this year's figure compares to recent years.
The 19,247 birds represents a tremendous 26 percent increase over last year's total of 15,326, and a 24 percent increase over the 10-year average of 15,571.
Notable is that the largest previous year-to-year increase in the past decade was the 20 percent jump from 14,355 in 2005 to 17,191 in 2006.
In short, the hunting wasn't just good. It was great.
A number of factors likely contributed.
Importantly, there are lots of turkeys out there.
Gary Norman, who manages the wild turkey program for the DGIF, has said that he believes that rises and falls in the spring turkey kill are a good indicator of the population as a whole.
In short, the higher the kill, the more birds in the population.
The hatch in 2011, which produced the 2-year-old turkeys that make up a large part of the annual spring kill, clearly was good.
Weather is also a key factor.
This spring has been wet and fairly breezy, but it's been fortunately lacking in complete washout weekends. So hunters are getting out there.
There is also the possibility that the number of hunters seriously participating in the spring season is growing.
But spring hunter numbers have been pretty consistent in recent years so it's unlikely that hunter numbers increased significantly.
Stay tuned to my Wild Life blog on Roanoke.com for more details, including top counties and other trends, as soon as the information becomes available.
New Blacksburg half marathon
Could the Hokie Half Marathon be the region's next big race?
Organized by a team that includes the New River Striders running club, the Running Club at Virginia Tech and running retail store Runabout Sports, the Hokie Half debuts Sept. 15.
Race officials are thinking big, having set a cap of 3,000 for the event, which will include a 5K.
The half-marathon course will be rolling, with 691 feet of elevation gain on a route that will include 4 miles of roads and the balance on the pretty Huckleberry trail.
Organizers are pledging to have bands on the course and to offer great swag (goodie bag stuff).
In a move that should attract some speedsters, prize money is being offered, along with complimentary entry and lodging for runners who have met certain time standards.
More details are available at www.hokiehalf.com.
Weather JournalNew batch of moisture for PM