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WV Wildlife: Turkey Poaching

WV DNR Police officers spend many hours, even before the season begins, scouting and investigating any potential poaching activities. (WCHS/WVAH)

Spring is an exciting time here in the Mountain State.

Temperatures warm, plants come to life and we leave those gray winter days behind.

If you're a hunter, you probably have another reason to feel a change in your mood—spring gobbler season.

Officer Chuck Stephens, a Natural Resources Police Officer, says turkey season is his favorite time of the year. That's why he wants to do everything he can do to protect this Mountain State tradition from poachers, or illegal hunting.

"The season starts April 17th this year and it goes for 4 weeks. Well before the season starts--usually 1 to 2 months in advance--we're out scouting areas where we have either tips or knowledge of illegal hunting activities", said Stephens.

Poaching doesn't just take the sport out of turkey hunting, but it can also hurt the resource itself—these beautiful birds.

"The main violations during the season would be hunting over bait, killing too many turkeys and things of that nature--but you have, generally, those guys that want to go out and hunt early as soon as the birds start gobbling", said Stephens.

This 'turkey fever' is real, but there's a reason DNR biologists set the season that they do--it's simply backed by research and science.

Other violations--besides bating--that officer Stephens sees a lot, include hunting without a license, using electronic calls, not having written permission to hunt on a piece of land and carrying a loaded gun on a vehicle or ATV.

If you see any poaching activity, DNR officials want to know about it.

"If you have information about turkey poachers, or poachers in general--you can always contact your local 911 center. They can get in touch with the DNR officer of that county. You can contact the district office, or you could also go online to our website. Any information you can get--the description of the person, license plate of a vehicle, any descriptions of the vehicle", said Stephens.

Game wardens are here to make our outdoor experience better—and to protect our wildlife. That way, we can enjoy the sport for many generations to come.

"Us, as Natural Resource Police, we're not out to ruin the hunters experience out in the field, but obviously--if you run across a game warden, or Natural Resources Police officer--if you can be compliant with us, we'll get you back into the hunt as soon as we can", said Stephens.

Stay safe and enjoy your hunt!

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