Back then, hunters could take one gobbler in the spring and one turkey of either sex in the fall. Hunters eventually persuaded regulators to allow a two-bird spring limit. Interest in the fall season diminished still more.
While all this was happening, fewer West Virginians were learning the woodcraft necessary to hunt turkeys during the fall. Curtis Taylor, the DNR's wildlife chief, often laments that few of today's hunters can read mast conditions and predict where flocks of turkeys might congregate during the fall season.
"In our generation, most hunters spent their formative years pursuing small game. They learned to identify trees, and they learned how forest conditions affect wildlife movements," Taylor said. "Those are important lessons. Today's hunters don't bother to learn woodcraft. They watch a video or two and think they're turkey hunters."
The most important factor of all, however, doesn't involve turkeys at all. It involves deer.
Bowhunting for whitetails became wildly popular in West Virginia during the mid 1980s. It's just as popular today as it was back then.
Bowhunters quickly learned that the best time to hunt for trophy bucks is during the weeks that lead up to the "rut," or deer mating season. Pre-rut activity begins in late October and increases through mid-November.
Those weeks precisely overlap the fall turkey season.
Hunters who, back in the day, might have spent those weeks scouting for turkey flocks are instead sitting in tree stands and waiting for trophy bucks.
Bowhunting's rise has made fall turkey season an anachronism. It still has a pulse, but sadly that pulse is weak - and not likely to get stronger.