If state wildlife officials have their way, West Virginia’s hunters will have more time to hunt antlerless deer this fall and winter.
Division of Natural Resources biologists have asked the state Natural Resources Commission to tack two days onto the two-part antlerless-deer season — one day in October and another in December. The rationale, said assistant wildlife chief Gary Foster, is to provide two additional weekend days of hunting.
“Both the days we’re adding are Sundays,” he explained. “We think this will give people who might be visiting the state to hunt an incentive to stay here one more day, and we think it will provide additional recreation for resident hunters.”
If the commission approves the DNR’s proposal, the early segment of the season will take place Oct. 25-28, the late segment Dec. 6-9.
In addition to the antlerless season, agency officials also asked commissioners to create a pair of January seasons. The first, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 10-13, would cater to primitive-weapons enthusiasts. Dubbed the “Mountaineer Heritage Season,” it would create an either-sex season for hunters who use flintlock or sidelock muzzleloaders, longbows or recurve bows.
The second proposed season, which would take place Jan. 14-20, would be a seven-day extension of the state’s urban whitetail hunt.
Foster said at least 10 cities and six homeowners’ associations now allow bowhunting, and the average annual harvest is about 1,000 deer, mostly antlerless.
“This would give those communities an opportunity to get rid of some more nuisance deer,” he added.
DNR officials also are seeking to force hunters to kill more antlerless deer in counties with higher-than-desired whitetail populations.
In the past, hunters who killed bucks in those counties have been forbidden to kill a second buck until they’d killed an antlerless deer. The regulation has always been interpreted as discipline-specific; an archer who killed a buck with a bow would have to kill a doe with a bow before killing a second buck with a bow. If that hunter wanted to switch to a gun before killing an antlerless deer, he or she would be able to kill a buck right off the bat.
That would change under the DNR’s new proposal. If an archer killed a buck with a bow, he or she now would have to kill an antlerless deer, either with a gun or a bow, before killing a buck with a gun.
At the same time they impose that requirement, however, DNR officials would dramatically reduce the number of affected counties. Last year, 23 counties fell into the “earn-a-second-buck” category. This year, that total would drop to 12.
Overall, the DNR’s antlerless-deer regulation proposals are slightly more conservative than last year’s. Twenty-one counties, or parts thereof, would have more restrictive bag limits this year than in 2016. Only five would have more liberal limits. Twenty-eight would remain unchanged.
Those with more restrictive limits would include Braxton, Brooke, Gilmer, Harrison, Jackson, Lewis, Lincoln, Marion, Mason, Mercer, Morgan, Pleasants, Putnam, Roane, Summers, Taylor, Upshur, northern Wayne, Webster, Wetzel and Wirt.
Those with more liberal limits would include Clay, eastern Fayette, Nicholas, Pendleton and Preston.
The commission will vote on all of the DNR’s proposals at its April 22 meeting at Canaan Valley Resort.