ROANOKE — West Virginia’s spring turkey season just got eight days longer.
Members of the state Natural Resources Commission voted Sunday to extend the season, which had been 27 days long, to 35 days. The season will still open on the third Saturday in April.
The seven-member panel, whose duty is to set the state’s hunting and fishing regulations, briefly considered an amendment that would have allowed all-day turkey hunting during the season’s final week. Currently, all hunting must cease at 1 p.m.
After hearing from Division of Natural Resources biologists, commissioners voted the amendment down, but approved the eight-day extension.
The commission tabled a proposal to allow year-round hunting for coyotes at night. Predator hunters had asked the commission to extend the season past Aug. 31, its current endpoint, but the proposal died for lack of a motion to approve.
Commissioners expressed concerns that the lengthened season might encourage deer poaching, and might also create headaches for law enforcement personnel who might be called out to investigate shots fired at night during the deer season.
The panel approved the DNR’s proposals for antlerless-deer regulations during the 2020 season, but amended the agency’s bear-hunting proposals.
One of the proposals would have prohibited bear hunting with dogs in a 58-square-mile area of Preston County. The proposal came after landowner complaints that hunters had trespassed on their property.
Members of the West Virginia Bear Hunters Association opposed the proposal, and several commissioners cited that opposition while discussing the issue. Ultimately, commissioners voted to approve the bear regulations as a whole, but to allow hunting with dogs in all of Preston County.
The commission voted down a proposal that would have allowed hunters age 14 and under to use crossbows during the archery deer season in Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming counties. Those counties are closed to crossbow use except by physically handicapped hunters.
In other actions, commission members voted:
- To create a special youth season for black bear. It will be open to hunters age 8 to 18, and will be held during the state’s October youth season for antlerless deer.
- To extend the buck firearm and antlerless-deer season through the second Sunday following Thanksgiving.
- To allow hunters during the youth spring turkey season to use traditional bows as well as shotguns and crossbows.
- To extend each of the splits of the two-part fall turkey season to include Sundays.
The panel also heard a report from Rob Southwick of Southwick Associates, a research company that recently completed a DNR-sanctioned survey on hunters’ feelings about potential changes to the way hunting licenses are priced and packaged.
DNR officials stressed there are no current plans to change the license structure, and that the information in the report will be used if changes are proposed sometime in the future.