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Antlerless

Though weather can be iffy during the December split of West Virginia’s antlerless-deer season, the four-day hunt gives hunters who haven’t “tagged out” an opportunity to put some venison in the freezer.

This year’s edition of West Virginia’s “traditional” antlerless-deer season might benefit from the foul weather that plagued the state’s buck season.

“Hunters who were snowed out or rained out during the buck season might have more incentive to get out there during the antlerless season,” said Paul Johansen, wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources.

Weather during the buck season’s first three days usually determines the number of deer that get killed. This year’s opening-day weather looked good in the state’s lower elevations, but up high it wasn’t good at all.

“We had some gusty winds,” Johansen said. “Wind makes hunting difficult, and I think it might have affected the harvest early in the season.”

The wind gave way to rain and snow. DNR officials don’t yet know how many deer will be killed by the time the season ends Sunday, but they clearly aren’t anticipating a banner harvest. They’re hoping hunters will be willing to shift their focus from antlered bucks to antlerless females.

“The timing of the antlerless season is pretty fortunate,” Johansen said.

“With the buck season ending on a Sunday and the antlerless season starting on the following Thursday, there’s a three-day gap that should allow buck-season hunters to take a bit of a break before heading afield again.”

Since the December split of the traditional antlerless season lasts just four days, weather could play a major role in the number of deer taken.

“Weather is always important during this segment,” Johansen said. “Deer hunters remain active if weather conditions are suitable. If we have less than ideal weather, it always affects the numbers.

“We’re hoping for good weather. Taking antlerless deer is important, because it allows us to maintain our deer herd at an appropriate size. A good antlerless harvest is always one of [the DNR’s] primary goals.”

Reach John McCoy at johnmccoy@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1231, or follow @GazMailOutdoors on Twitter.