Commission finalizes W.Va’s 2014 big-game hunting seasons

It’s official.

West Virginia’s 2014 big-game hunting seasons won’t differ much from last year’s. Members of the state Natural Resources Commission recently voted to finalize those seasons, and they took a light-handed approach.

“With one minor exception, the commissioners adopted the season structures [wildlife biologists] proposed, and those proposals were only slightly different from the seasons hunters experienced in 2013,” said Paul Johansen, assistant wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources.

The exception to which Johansen referred was the opening of the state’s September firearm season for black bears. DNR officials had proposed to have the season run Sept. 22-24; commission members changed the dates to Sept. 18-20 so at least one day of the three-day hunt would fall on a Saturday.

“Biologically speaking, there’s nothing that would argue against that approach, so we were fine with the change,” Johansen said.

As usual, the DNR proposal included what Johansen called “tweaks” to make antlerless-deer or bear regulations more liberal or conservative from one county to another. Those tweaks break out as follows:

Eleven counties, or parts of counties, will have more liberal antlerless-deer regulations; four will have more restrictive regulations.

Eight of the 11 — Cabell, Calhoun, Doddridge, Gilmer, southern Greenbrier, Pleasants, Roane and Taylor — will move into the DNR’s most liberal regulation category, with a three-deer limit and the requirement that hunters kill at least one antlerless deer before attempting to kill a second buck.

The remaining three — Braxton, northern Lincoln and Summers — will change from a one-deer limit to a three-deer limit.

On the more restrictive side of the ledger, western Grant and western Mineral counties will see their antlerless-deer bag limits reduced from three to one; and northern Greenbrier and Webster counties would go from last year’s one-deer, limited-permit limit to a fully closed antlerless-deer season.

Bear hunters in 27 counties will enjoy more liberal regulations. Eight of those — Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Raleigh and Wyoming — will be liberalized by having two additional days tacked onto the October firearm season.

Seventeen more — Barbour, Braxton, Clay, Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Lewis, Mercer, Monroe, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, Summers, Taylor, Tuckery, Upshur and Webster — will be open to bear hunting by special permit during the buck firearm season on both private and public lands. Last year, those counties were open on private lands only.

Seventeen counties or parts of counties will get more restrictive bear-hunting regulations.

Of those, 16 — eastern Barbour, eastern Braxton, southern Clay, Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, western Mineral, eastern Monroe, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, eastern Upshur and Webster — will have their seven-day September firearm season reduced to three days.

Bowhunters should note that the opening day of the deer, bear and wild-boar archery seasons has been shifted again.

Instead of the Saturday closest to Oct. 1, which had proved difficult for hunters to remember, the season instead will open on the last Saturday in September. This year, that particular Saturday will fall on Sept. 27.

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