West Virginia’s newest bear season will expand a bit this year.
The four-day “doe-bear” firearm season, introduced last fall, will be open in nearly twice as many counties this fall.
Hunters in 25 counties will be allowed to take bears during the Oct. 24-27 hunt, timed to coincide with the state’s October firearm season for antlerless deer.
During the inaugural 2018 season, hunters killed bears in 10 of the 13 counties open at the time. Colin Carpenter, bear project leader for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said doubling the number of open counties should help increase the harvest.
“Last year, the total bear harvest for the season was 18,” he added. “I suspect the kill will increase, but I’m not sure by how much.”
It sometimes takes hunters a while to adjust to the presence of a new season, and Carpenter thinks a lack of familiarity might have helped suppress last year’s kill.
“We really didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “Any time you add a new season, you don’t really know what’s going to happen. We hoped that holding a concurrent doe-bear season would encourage more people to hunt antlerless deer by saying, ‘If you’re doe hunting, you might also end up getting a bear.’”
He said it sometimes takes hunters two to three years to become aware of a new season’s presence, and to make arrangements to hunt at that time.
“I’d encourage hunters to get a copy of the state’s Hunting Regulations booklet and take a good close look at it,” he added. “A lot of guys don’t seem to realize that the seasons are open at certain times. We’ve created a ton of opportunities for bear hunting, and we want people to take advantage of them.”
Carpenter said it’s possible that some bowhunters killed deer during last year’s doe-bear firearm season, but he isn’t sure how many.
“Unless the bear is killed with a gun during the time the season is open, we can’t be sure if it was killed by a bowhunter taking part in the doe-bear hunt or by a bowhunter out hunting during the regular archery season,” he explained.
Hunters who hope to take a bear during the concurrent doe-bear hunt will need to have purchased the state’s $10 bear-damage license stamp.
The 25 counties open this year are Barbour, Berkeley, Boone, Braxton, Calhoun, Clay, Fayette, Gilmer, Hampshire, Harrison, Jefferson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Mercer, Monongalia, Monroe, Morgan, Nicholas, Preston, Raleigh, Roane, Summers, Taylor and Upshur.