Another rite of spring has passed and we have put the 2017 turkey season in the rearview mirror. Like all hunting seasons, this one was different from the rest. There’s a lot of good and bad in that statement.

There were birds gobbling early in February this year. That is probably a result of the extremely mild winter we had. The fact that the turkey season started a week late made it difficult to hunt those early birds. The foliage was on the trees very early this year and that did help in hunting the swamps for those that cared to brave the mosquitoes of an early and warm spring.

We took a couple of birds very early and that took the pressure off to hunt when the temperatures soared into the 90s during mid-April. It is true that many turkeys were still clustered together in late March, but I didn’t find that to be consistently true on different farms. The gobbler that my wife took the second weekend of the season was all by his lonesome and eventually succumbed to the call late in the morning after searching for a mate the couple of hours after dawn. The same can be said for the big gobbler I took the first weekend. He came in by himself late in the afternoon.

As far as I am concerned, I am not interested in hunting during the heat of midday and the early afternoon of late April and May. If it were the intention of the powers to be to further cut back the number of birds taken by making it uncomfortable to hunt on top of reducing the bag limit, then I would say they would be successful. While my wife used to love to sit in blinds on late-season afternoons in hopes of taking a late-gobbling bird, she no longer is willing to do so and suffer heat exhaustion.

My neighbor ended his season after stumbling over a copperhead and a rattlesnake one morning in late April. I found myself dousing with DEET as well as burning through canisters of Thermo cell fuel and elected to end my season the last week of April as well.

It is my understanding that the current regulations will sunset at the end of next turkey season. I don’t care if the S.C. Department of Natural Resources decides to propose a two-bag limit instead of the current three. I see no reason to go back to a five-bird limit. BUT PLEASE don’t move the season to an April 1 beginning. That in essence would cut our Lowcountry season from the original six weeks to a barely useable two weeks.

I realize everything that has been done to the deer and turkey seasons as of late is to benefit the Upstate hunters and make their season comparable to the historically longer and more liberal Lowcountry seasons, but can’t we just give them the same season as ours instead of making ours the same as theirs?

It is a blessing to stand on the hill overlooking the swamp on a cool March morning. The leaves just budding on the trees and the fragrance of wild azalea and dogwood blossoms lend the air a sense of pureness. The absence of mosquitoes and redbugs that now accompany us well into deer season is also a blessing of early spring. It clears the head to get up early on a crisp morning and it is the reason many of us wish for a later deer season and an earlier turkey season in the coastal plain.

The reasons for the change in our turkey season remain unclear. I think most people in our area were in favor of changing the bag limit from five to three birds per season. After all, there are less birds now, right?

The moving of the season back from March 15 to March 20 and ultimately to April 1 is the part that doesn’t quite make sense. DNR said this was in order to allow the birds to split up and start gobbling. It makes sense if you are in the Upstate where the season evolves later. It makes no sense in the Lowcountry where birds are gobbling in February and traveling alone in March.

I will say that my wife took a bird with our good friend Glen Hutto the last day and that gobbler was in the company of four others. So this pattern comes and goes. So the shift in our season only makes sense to the decision-makers. Bu the change would only mean hunters in our area are getting the short end of the stick -- again.

I will close by saying that I’m sure we will revisit this subject many times a year from now. I hope that at some point the politicians and the DNR will do something positive for the people who pay their salaries, the hunters, rather than the special interests of powerful individuals (i.e. the S.454 deer bill).

I would also wish that biologists who are alarmed by the predation of coyotes on our deer and turkey populations and are unsure of how to handle it not take the approach that they have to do something, anything, to avoid looking helpless. Cutting back hunting opportunity to accommodate coyote predation is not the answer to everything.

Dr. John Rheney has been writing his outdoors column for The Times and Democrat since 1984.

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