The West Virginia Hunting and Trapping Regulations are now available and they provide, I think, good news for Mountain State big game hunters.
First of all, the number of counties open to fall turkey hunting has been expanded, again, to include 42 of the state’s 55 counties. That is amazing.
We all know how exciting the spring gobbler hunt can be, but to tell the truth I can get just as excited by a flock of fall birds coming line-abreast in my direction, making the oak leaves fly.
Apparently our turkey population is widespread enough that a lot of us will get the chance to feel that rush.
The big change for most of you will be the expansion of the daily deer bag limit to two. That one has been a long time coming and will be very welcome.
More than one hunter has told me about standing at the edge of a field when a group of does came out, shooting one and watching the rest of them just mill about. They lamented the fact of not being able to shoot two at once and thus get their annual deer meat collected all in one whack. Now, that scenario is a possibility.
I am not sure I want to do that myself. Working up one deer at a time is just fine with me, but this change should be especially helpful to guys with limited time to hunt.
I was surprised, to the point of being shocked, that this two-a-day thing also allows one of the deer to be a buck. The antlered deer is a sacred cow in these parts and I never thought this could happen, but it has, and I commend the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources for this forward thinking.
The checking requirements are a little different for those who kill two deer in a day. They both must be checked before hunting again the next day, not the 72 hour guidelines that are set for regular checking of deer.
Also, the limit for special Youth, Class Q and Senior hunt days remains one deer per day.
Guys, it is time for my crude but relevant annual advice to get a copy of the regulations and keep them in your bathroom, so you will read them frequently.
Some of this stuff is confusing, but it is all in there. I note that the paragraph regarding the deer bag limit change is contained on pages 12, 19, 24, 27 and 28 of the regulations, possibly more.
No one is trying to hide things from us, we just have to read.
Another big change is the addition of 19 counties where a hunter will be able to shoot a bear during the traditional two-week deer season, on private land only. This has been available in about 10 West Virginia counties and is greatly expanded this year.
However, I repeat, however, in those 19 new counties you must have a special permit to harvest a bear during the period of Nov. 25 to Dec. 7. The permit applications are available at license dealers or you can download one from www.wvdnr.gov.
The permits are free, so this is not a money making scheme dreamed up by the DNR. Biologists are typically cautious when trying out the next big idea, so the numbers of permits for this hunt are limited.
The deadline to apply for this bear permit is Aug. 19. See page 39 of the regulations for all the details.
The number of permits for each county will not be determined until the annual mast survey report has been completed and analyzed in mid-September, according to Chris Ryan, supervisor of Game Management Services for the DNR.
If the number of applicants exceeds the number of available permits for a county, a random drawing will be conducted. Successful applicants will be notified soon afterwards.
This is a major change representing progressive thinking. It will allow the hunter who does not maintain a pack of hounds the opportunity to take a bear, because this is a no-dog season.
The DNR has been criticized at times, by me included, for setting bear season to exclusively benefit the hound hunters. That is clearly not the case with this season.
The final reality is this. If you get all the proper licenses, permits and stamps, and if you are real lucky, you could legally kill a buck, a doe and a black bear in one day in some areas of West Virginia.
The younger hunters would say, dude, that is awesome.
I will just repeat what I have written before. Opportunities abound. Game is plentiful. One day they will call this the Golden Age of Hunting.
Dave Long is a retired W.Va. natural resources police officer and a frequent contributor to the Outdoors page.