CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's almost time for sportsmen to give their two cents' worth about regulations proposed for West Virginia's future hunting and fishing seasons.Division of Natural Resources officials will hold public meetings March 17-18 in 12 cities and towns scattered across the state. In the meetings, DNR biologists and administrators will fill attendees in on the agency's proposals for 2014's antlerless-deer and black-bear hunting regulations and on proposals for the 2015 fishing and small-game hunting seasons.Also at those meetings, DNR representatives will gather feedback from sportsmen about those proposals, and will compile that feedback into a report for the state Natural Resources Commission, the panel tasked with setting season lengths, dates and bag or creel limits.To ensure that sportsmen from all the parts of the state are represented, DNR officials hold two meetings in each of the state's six game- and fish-management districts.The March 17 meetings will be held in Fairmont, in the commons area at Fairmont East High School; in Princeton, in the Rotunda Room at the Chuck Mathena Center; in Martinsburg, in the cafeteria at the James Rumsey Technical Institute; in Milton, at the office building in West Virginia Pumpkin Park; in Spencer, at the Heritage Building; and in Flatwoods, at Braxton County High School.The March 18 meetings will be held in Glen Dale, in the John Marshall High School cafeteria; in Moorefield, at the South Branch Inn; in Elkins, at the DNR Operations Center; In Beckley, at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center; in Logan, at the Chief Logan State Park Conference Center; and in Parkersburg, in the lobby of the City Building.The meetings are open to anyone who wishes to attend. All of them are to begin at 6 p.m. and run through 8 p.m.
The meetings used to be run formally, with DNR officials presenting the regulation proposals and then asking for questions and comments. They became much less formal about 12 years ago, when the agency switched to an open-house format.DNR Director Frank Jezioro said the less-formal style "allows people to attend at their convenience during the schedule meeting times, learn of proposed regulation changes, discuss these proposals with personnel from the Wildlife Resources and Law Enforcement sections, and comment on the proposed regulations and other wildlife-related issues."People who attend the meetings can fill out questionnaires that ask whether they approve or disapprove of each hunting- and fishing-regulation proposal. Attendees are also free to submit formal written comments.The most high-profile proposal on this year's list would change the opening of the state's archery season for deer and wild boar to the last Saturday in September.Agency officials believe the wording, "the last Saturday in September," would be easier for sportsmen to remember than the current "Saturday closest to Oct. 1" wording. The proposal would also shift the archery opener for bears from "the Saturday closest to Oct. 15" to the last Saturday in September.Most of the other changes involve shuffling counties into regulatory categories with bag limits either more or less restrictive than current ones.Commission members will vote on the deer and bear regulations at their next meeting, scheduled for April 27.