In the dog days of summer, West Virginia’s hunters start thinking toward the weeks ahead.
The state’s hunting calendar for 2018-19 will start on Sept. 1 and conclude at the end of February. That six-month window contains a patchwork of seasons, some that last for months and some that last for only a few days. To help hunters keep track of all the opening and closing dates, state wildlife officials publish a booklet that outlines all the seasons and details the regulations that apply to each of them.
This year’s edition is available online now and should be available in hard-copy form sometime around Aug. 1. Paul Johansen, the DNR’s chief of wildlife resources, said the booklet helps keep hunters well-informed.
“We have a passionate cadre of sportsmen and sportswomen who are committed hunters,” he added. “It’s important for us to inform them of the regulation changes that present themselves every year. We want them to enjoy their sport without having to worry about running afoul of the law.”
Johansen said a new booklet must be published each year because West Virginia’s regulations change more often than some states’.
“Members of our [state] Natural Resources Commission approve and set our regulations on an annual basis,” he explained. “In many states, regulations can only be changed every two years. Our system gives us a lot more flexibility. We can be nimble and make changes that help us better manage our wildlife populations.”
Rather than force hunters to search for the changes, DNR officials place an overview in a prominent place.
“We actually have a separate section up front, just below the table of contents, that outlines the regulation changes for this year,” Johansen said. “Hunters have a good idea how our general regulation frameworks are set up, but there are changes. For example, antlerless-deer bag limits vary from year to year in some counties.”
This year, several major changes have pushed the antlerless-deer regulations almost into the background. Johansen said one is particularly far-reaching:
“Sunday hunting will be legal on public and private lands throughout the state,” he said.
“In the past, it was only allowed on private lands. This is a very significant, very positive move, and I believe our hunters are really going to enjoy it.”
Most of the other changes deal with individual seasons.
For example, natural resource commissioners have created a special Mountaineer Heritage Season for deer and bear.
This year’s heritage season, scheduled for Jan. 10-13, will be open to hunters using flintlock or sidelock muzzleloaders, longbows or recurve bows. Compound bows, crossbows and modern firearms will not be allowed.
The wild boar archery and firearm seasons will be split into two parts. The first part of the firearm season will run from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3, and the second half will take place Feb. 1-3. The first part of the archery season will run from Sept. 29 to Dec. 31, and the second half will take place Feb. 1-3.
The black bear archery and crossbow season, which used to be split to avoid conflict with the firearm season for buck deer, will be made continuous this year.
It will open on Sept. 29 and end on Dec. 31.
The muzzleloader season, which declined in popularity after it was moved into early December, will be moved back to its traditional mid-December slot. This year’s hunt is scheduled for Dec. 10-16.
Deer hunters in the Eastern Panhandle should be aware that DNR officials have modified the state’s Chronic Wasting Disease Containment Zone to include Mineral and Berkeley counties. Deer killed in those counties will have to be checked in physically at biological check stations the DNR will operate in those counties.
All of this year’s changes can be found in the electronic version of the regulations booklet, available under the Hunting tab at the DNR’s website, www.wvdnr.gov.
Hard copies should be available after Aug. 1 at DNR offices and at businesses where hunting licenses are sold.