Cumberland Times-News

July 7, 2012

Mountain State opportunities grow

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— When it comes to hunting regulations in West Virginia, one size does not fit all — or even most.

My fellow columnist Dave Long and I were on the same page (double meaning alert --- double meaning alert) this week, each noting that the new regs were published and digging into them to see what is up for this year’s hunts in the Mountain State.

It is pretty much impossible to cover every nuance in the regs, so, like Dave, I encourage you to sit down and take a good hard look at what the rules mean to you.

For example, right here in the circulation area of the Cumberland Times-News, there is some September bear hunting using firearms in Grant, Hardy and Pendleton counties, but not in Mineral, Hampshire or Morgan.

Deer regulations, too, can differ depending upon which county or portion of a county you hunt.

One new regulation that applies statewide, though, is a much earlier opener for bowhunting bears.

In fact, both deer and bear bowhunting begins Sept. 29.

On a personal level, I like this change. Where I hunt in the Eastern Panhandle, our group often sees bears in September and early October, but they consistently disappear after that. Happens every year.

Paul Johansen, of the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Section, said the early deer bow opener was proposed by agency biologists as part of a revamped Deer Operational Plan. “The inclusion of bear archery hunting on Sept. 29 was brought up by one of the Natural Resources Commissioners and approved. There are no biological problems with it and the biologists support the additional opportunity it provides. Our bear population is in great shape.”

Also, the fall turkey season has been renovated and the changes include a much earlier opener, Oct. 13.

In what the Division of Natural Resources calls the traditional fall turkey counties, the season will be Oct. 13-20 and Oct. 29-Nov. 17.

Johansen said it was actually the decision to conduct a late October firearms hunt for antlerless deer that generated the change in the turkey season.

“We are excited about the antlerless hunt because it will remove does before breeding season and offers us a way to control the deer population where needed,” he said. “However, we don’t like to overlap deer firearms seasons with turkey seasons because there is always a chance hens will be overharvested.”

This means West Virginia hunters will get an earlier crack than usual at the birds of autumn.

And, those who hunt deer during the Oct 25-27 antlerless hunt can certainly use those outings as turkey scouting trips and return on Oct. 29 or later to hunt the birds, it would seem to me.

This isn’t exactly like the split season the state had some years ago. That split included a week in December to hunt turkeys.

“The fall has only so many days,” Johansen said. “As a hunter myself I wish it had more. We try to fit in as much hunting for as many species as possible within the time frame we have.”

Also this year, the September bow and muzzleloader hunts for antlerless deer were scuttled; the bow season at the suggestion of the biologists and the muzzleloader season at the command of the commissioners. Neither season had proven very popular or resulted in many deer being harvested, according to Johansen.

There is no change to the chronic wasting disease containment area this year.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.