Sportsmen should keep in mind that the word flat truly describes the Chickahominy. Elevations top out at 50 feet and tidal creeks, guts, and marshes abound. Be sure to wear hightopped rubber boots if you visit.
For more information on public land hunting on these or other public lands: www.dgif.virginia.gov/wmas/.
Of course at 1.7 million acres, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest (GWJNF) is the predominant public land in Western Virginia â€” and for that matter, the entire state. I killed my first gobbler within the GWJNF, and it remains in my annual rotation of destinations. The one piece of advice that I would give for hunting the national forest is that hunting deep in the interior is not as good a strategy as it was in the 1980s when I first started venturing there.
Today, most of the turkeys seem to be concentrated along the perimeter of the GWJNF where it adjoins private land, specifically cattle and agricultural farms. Three ways exist to take advantage of this situation.
First, gain permission to hunt farms that border the national forest and go back and forth between the two.
Second, attain permission to cross private land to reach public land. Surprisingly, landowners have been very receptive to granting my requests to do this. And, last, park your vehicle alongside the public land and hike to where a farm borders the national forest. Then either call birds off the private land or intercept them on their way there. I have tagged toms using each of these three scenarios. For more information: http://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal.
The general public often does not understand how harvest numbers really work. For instance, a county that is extremely large might have impressive harvests every year only because of its size. A better way to crunch turkey numbers is to consider the kill per square mile of forest range. Based on that indices, Gary Norman states that a number of counties offer outstanding hunting.
These domains, he says, include Northampton, Richmond, Northumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancaster. All of these counties lie in the eastern portion of the state, and Northampton rests on the Eastern Shore, along with another high yield county Accomack.
The Piedmont is also well represented. Franklin, my favorite Piedmont county to hunt and where I plan to be afield on opening day, is among the top performers â€” as are Bedford and Loudon, although the latter is highly developed and has little open land.
In the Mountain region, major turkey hot spots include Wythe, Carroll, Grayson, and Scott. Wythe, Carroll, and Scott feature a great deal of mountainous terrain and demand that sportsmen be willing to trek up and down steep hollows. Grayson has its share of steep terrain, but it also offers bottomland in the form of the New River and numerous tributaries.
ODDS AND ENDS
Norman says that no new regulations are on tap for this spring. The biologist requests that state turkey hunters contact him (firstname.lastname@example.org) if they would like to participate in the annual spring gobbler survey.
â€śThere is a wealth of information [in the report] that may be helpful to readers,â€ť he says.
I have participated in the survey for over 20 years and relish learning what other turkey hunters are reporting and commenting on. Participants can weigh in on regulations that they would like to see implemented, ones that they would like to eliminate, note interesting observations from their times in the turkey woods, and provide Norman and the VDGIF staff a wealth of information.
Finally, Norman recommends that veteran hunters take a youngster hunting on Youth Day on April 7, a week ahead of opening day on April 14. The season concludes on May 19. Last spring after I tagged out, I took Christiansburgâ€™s David Brugh and his daughter Elaina on an outing to Franklin County. Elaina did not kill a tom, but we had a grand time trying. And trying to tag a tom is what we will all have in mind very short soon.
Editorâ€™s Note: The author writes a weekly blog, often on turkeys, at his website; to read it or to order his four books on river fishing www.bruceingramoutdoors.com.