West Virginia’s bear-hunting calendar is in for some changes this fall.
The state Natural Resources Commission, which sets season dates and bag limits, on Sunday reshuffled some of the firearm seasons scheduled for late summer and early fall.
The most significant change will take place in Boone, Fayette, Kanawha and Raleigh counties, which will receive 10 extra days of hunting this fall.
The season will be split into two parts: Aug. 28-Sept. 6, and Oct. 30-Nov. 5.
Division of Natural Resources biologists who asked for the change cited a high number of nuisance-bear complaints in those counties, an indicator the area’s bear population had grown too large.
To help concentrate hunters’ efforts on the extended season, biologists also asked the commission to move the early firearm season in Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming counties back a couple of weeks, and to split it into two parts.
Commissioners approved the change. The resulting season’s first segment will run from Sept. 11-17, and the second segment will run from Oct. 2-8.
The seven-member panel also approved the DNR’s proposal to expand the state’s firearm season without dogs into 51 of the state’s 55 counties. By comparison, 29 counties were open during last year’s three-day hunt.
In a separate vote, the commission approved the creation of an urban bear season for municipalities and homeowner associations that ask to have one.
DNR officials say nuisance-bear complaints have risen in Charleston, Beckley, Morgantown and other cities located in areas with high bear populations. An urban bow and crossbow season, they say, could help reduce bear numbers just as urban deer hunts have helped reduce whitetail populations.
DNR director Steve McDaniel said communities would need to make sure archers are well-qualified before issuing hunting permits.
“We will be adamant that municipalities require hunters to demonstrate proficiency with a bow or a crossbow before allowing people to urban bear hunt,” he said. “There’s a chance a wounded bear could hurt someone.”
The commission’s only other significant change to the state’s hunting regulations will take place during the four-day Mountaineer Heritage primitive-weapons season in January. Hunters using muzzleloaders will be allowed to take turkeys as well as deer and bear.
Under a change made during the recent legislative session, which stipulated that muzzle-loading weapons should not be considered as firearms, hunters who take part in the Mountaineer Heritage season will not be required to wear fluorescent orange clothing. That would be a boon to turkey hunters, who customarily wear camouflage clothing when seeking their sharp-eyed quarry.
The commission made no significant changes to the state’s deer-hunting seasons. Three counties — Pocahontas, Wayne and Mason — will move to more liberal antlerless-deer regulations. Four counties — Preston, Cabell, northern Kanawha and Boone — will move to more conservative regulations.
Commissioners did approve the DNR Park Section’s proposals for limited state-park deer hunts in 2021. Hunts will be held in late October and early November at Beech Fork, Blennerhassett, Canaan Valley, Cacapon, North Bend, Stonewall and Twin Falls state parks.
Parks chief Brad Reed said Pipestem, which hosted a hunt last year, was dropped from this year’s list because the park’s superintendent and the district wildlife biologist determined the previous two years’ hunts had removed enough deer to return the park to their desired natural balance.