While looking back at my notes from the recent Natural Resources Commission meeting, I noticed several noteworthy bits of information that hadn’t yet made it into print.
Here they are, in no particular order of importance:
n COVID-19 created a lot of problems in 2020, but it sure didn’t have much effect on West Virginia’s big-game hunting seasons.
“It was a crazy year,” said Gary Foster, assistant wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources. “We were worried that COVID would restrict hunter participation. We were pleasantly surprised at what we saw.”
Foster said hunters killed more deer, bear, turkey and wild boars last year than they did in 2019. Some of the increases were slight, but at least they weren’t decreases.
Hunting-license sales to nonresidents were poor during the spring turkey season, which began during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Foster said.
“Nonresident participation was down, but apparently a lot of resident hunters took to the woods and offset that drop in nonresident hunting,” he added.
License sales picked up after the spring, particularly among bear hunters.
“We sold 3,100 more resident bear stamps than we did in 2019, and about 500 more nonresident stamps,” Foster said.
The extra participation showed up in the harvest. Hunters killed a record-breaking 3,541 bears, 340 more than they’d taken in any previous season. An increase in participation might also have contributed to 2020’s slight increase in the antlerless-deer harvest. Foster said hunters purchased about 8,000 more doe permits than they did in 2019.
A late-season lottery draw for permits to hunt on a large tract of private land also appears to have piqued hunters’ interest in hunting wild boars.
“We had 1,763 people apply for that late boar hunt,” Foster said. “We issued 200 permits. We don’t know how many permit-holders ended up participating, but we do know they harvested seven animals. Wild boars are tough to hunt.”
During all the boar seasons — archery and firearm, early and late segments combined — hunters bagged 144 hogs, the highest total since 1995.
n Hunters who apply for lottery-drawn permits to hunt antlerless deer on the Monongahela, Washington and Jefferson national forests should have an easier time of it this year. The DNR’s Keith Krantz told commissioners that the agency plans to make the permits county-specific rather than management-district specific. National forest management districts often encompass parts of several counties, and sometimes have nondescript names such as Beaver Dam and Shenandoah.
“It was hard for hunters to tell which management district they were hunting in,” Krantz said. “We think making it county-specific will clear that up.”
n DNR officials not only want to change the dates when anglers can legally keep trout caught in the state’s delayed-harvest fishing areas, they appear to be preparing to add several more such areas.
Currently, the catch-and-keep window extends from June 1 to Oct. 1. The DNR asked the commission to change it to April 1 to Oct. 31.
Mark Scott, the DNR’s fisheries chief, said he expects more delayed-harvest waters to be added when the DNR’s new trout-management plan comes out in June. “The idea is to catch the trout out before the water gets warm and they die,” he added.