West Virginia’s turkey hunters might get to enjoy an extra week of hunting next year.
State wildlife officials have proposed to extend the current 27-day season to 35 days, effective in the spring of 2021.
Under the proposal, the season would still begin on the third Monday in April, but would, in essence, be a week longer. The extension would allow hunters to head afield during the so-called “second peak of gobbling activity.”
That week has been lost to hunters since 2015, when the state Natural Resources Commission voted to begin the four-week season a week earlier.
Gary Foster, the Division of Natural Resources’ assistant wildlife chief, proposed the extended season at the commission’s Feb. 23 meeting. Foster said the agency’s biologists had determined that the state’s turkey population could handle the extra week of hunting without any ill effects.
Foster also asked commission members to consider the DNR’s proposal for a year-round season for hunters who use lights to illuminate coyotes at night.
Currently, the season extends from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31. Under the DNR’s proposal, it would run from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, with restrictions between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31.
The restrictions would prohibit coyote hunting on public lands during that time period. Hunters on private lands would have to secure the landowner’s permission to hunt, and would have to identify DNR Law Enforcement officials that of their intent to hunt on the lands specified.
Foster said the restrictions would help prevent deer and bear poachers from being able to masquerade as coyote hunters, and would help law enforcement officials to determine whether shots being fired at night were from coyote hunters or from poachers.
When asked by a commissioner whether the regulation would be amended to include a specific time period for notifying law enforcement, Foster indicated it would.
The rest of the DNR’s proposals dealt with youth seasons, season lengths, and big-game bag limits.
Foster asked commissioners to consider creating a two-day black-bear hunting season for young people 8 to 18 years of age. The season, if approved, would be held on the third Saturday and following Sunday in October. Hunting with dogs would be prohibited.
The season would coincide with the existing two-day youth hunt for antlerless deer and would be open on public and private lands, but only in counties where firearm hunting for antlerless deer is permitted.
DNR officials also proposed two other regulation changes that would affect youths.
The first would allow hunters age 14 and under to use crossbows to hunt deer in Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming counties.
Those counties currently are closed to crossbow hunting except for people with special physical-handicap permits. Foster said the rationale behind the season is that not all young people can draw an upright bow, but just about everyone could shoot a crossbow.
The second would allow young people who hunt during the spring-turkey youth season to use bows and crossbows. Under current regulations, youths are only allowed to use shotguns during the two-day hunt.
The final two DNR proposals sought changes in season lengths.
If approved, the first would extend the firearm season for buck deer through the second Sunday following Thanksgiving Day. The season currently ends on the second Saturday. Foster said the change would allow hunters to take advantage of the statewide Sunday hunting law, in effect since 2016.
In a similar vein, the second would extend the first week of the fall turkey season by a day so it would end on a Sunday.