West Virginia’s 2019 hunting-regulations booklets will be printed soon, and state wildlife officials say some changes are in store for hunters this fall.
“Probably the most significant change is the passage of [the state’s new] wanton-waste law, which goes into effect this year,” said Paul Johansen, the Division of Natural Resources’ wildlife chief.
The law prohibits hunters from killing an animal, taking only the most desired or valuable parts, and leaving the rest to rot.
The crux of the law reads as follows: “It is unlawful for any person to take any big game and detach or remove from the carcass the head, hide, antlers, tusks, paws, claws, gallbladder, teeth, beards, or spurs only and leave the carcass to waste.”
People who violate the law could be found guilty of a misdemeanor, and fined not less than $500 or more than $2,500; or sent to jail for not less than 10 days or more than 100. They could also have their hunting licenses suspended for 5 years.
The way the law is written, hunters who are unable to locate the carcasses of animals they’ve killed before the meat spoils will not be in violation if they then collect the head, hide, etc., and leave the spoiled meat behind.
Another significant change centers on deer-hunting regulations in one of the state’s newest wildlife management areas.
The 10,416-acre Little Kanawha WMA, located in Wirt and Calhoun counties, will be operated under the DNR’s “older-age deer management” regulations. All bucks killed there must have antler spreads of at least 14 inches (roughly the width of a buck’s outstretched ears). As is the case in other WMAs managed under older-age regulations, it will be illegal to bait or feed wildlife at any time on the property.
Two of the state’s special hunting seasons for youths will be extended, starting this fall.
The October youth season for antlerless deer, which in the past had been a one-day hunt, will now be a two-day affair. Next spring’s youth season for wild turkeys will also be extended to two days. Both hunts historically have been held on Saturdays prior to the respective season openers. Now they will be held on the Saturdays and Sundays prior.
“There are two reasons the [Natural Resources Commission] has voted to extend those seasons,” Johansen explained. “One, they recognized that the state has embraced Sunday hunting; and two, they wanted to give kids another chance at a productive hunt in case they encounter bad weather on Saturday.”
The new regulations also include a modified shot restriction for the youth spring gobbler season.
“Up to now, young people were restricted to shot no larger than size 4 and no smaller than size 7 ½,” said Gary Foster, the DNR’s assistant chief for game management. “Next spring, those restrictions will be removed.”
Foster said the change made sense because many of the young people who hunted with the shot restrictions during the youth season were also hunting during the regular season with no restrictions.
A minor change is in store for the state’s Mountaineer Heritage primitive-weapons season.
Starting in January 2020, hunters will be allowed to use sidelock percussion-cap firearms and muzzle-loading pistols. During the first-ever edition of the season, held last January, hunters who chose to use firearms were restricted to flintlock rifles only, and were not allowed to use pistols at all.
“The prohibition on pistols was simply an oversight,” Foster said. “This change will correct that.”
As it always does, this year’s regulation booklet will include minor tweaks to season lengths and bag limits for the state’s bear and antlerless-deer seasons.
“Hunters should be aware that several counties, wildlife management areas and state forests will have restricted numbers of [lottery-drawn] antlerless-deer permits available for them,” Foster said. “People who wish to hunt in those areas will have until midnight on Aug. 14 to apply for their permits.”
Foster said hunters who frequent three Eastern Panhandle counties also need to be aware of special deer-checking requirements effective this fall.
“In Berkeley, Mineral and Morgan counties, we’ll be running biological game-checking stations to sample for chronic wasting disease,” he explained. “During the first two days of the buck firearm season, Nov. 25-26, hunters will be required to bring their deer in to be checked.”
Recent discoveries of CWD-positive deer in those counties prompted the change, he added.
Wildlife chief Johansen said hunters should check the regulation booklets for changes that might affect them.
“It’s always a good idea,” he said. “The commission has the ability to make changes every year, which allows us to be nimble in our management objectives. We urge hunters to stay abreast of those changes.”