If you’d like to see an example of the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished,” look no farther than West Virginia’s hunting-regulations booklet for 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic forced Division of Natural Resources officials to scramble to get the pamphlets written, formatted and sent to the printer on time. That scrambling led to a mistake.
When the pamphlets came back from the printer, agency heads found the error.
“It relates to the four archery-only counties,” said Paul Johansen, the DNR’s wildlife chief. “It says there’s a new regulation that allows hunters age 14 and under to use crossbows.”
That’s a problem.
There is no such regulation; DNR officials proposed it, but the Natural Resources Commission rejected it.
That should have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t. The commission meeting was supposed to have taken place on May 3, but was postponed to May 31 because of the coronavirus.
The May 31 meeting took place just days before the booklets were due to go to the printer. To save time, DNR workers pre-wrote the booklets’ text as though the commission had approved every one of the agency’s regulation proposals.
“Because we were under a time crunch, we put the draft regulations in there,” Johansen said. “When some of the proposals were not approved, we pulled them out. Unfortunately, we missed one.”
They pulled it off the new-regulations summary on the third page of the booklet, but failed to pull it from page 26.
“We apologize,” Johansen said. “We’re trying to correct it now. We’re pulling the booklets we sent to license agents. We’re trying to get the word out on social media, and we’re changing the booklet we post on our website.
“We may end up reprinting the booklets, or we might put stickers on them, or we might send an erratum page for license vendors to slip into the pamphlets. We want to get the word out so hunters won’t unknowingly break the law.”
Several other regulations did change, and Johansen said those are all listed correctly it the booklet.
“The most significant change is that we’ve added eight days to the spring turkey season,” he added. “The season will still start at the same time, but we tacked another week, plus a Sunday, onto the end.”
Another significant change will allow hunters to use leashed dogs to track mortally wounded deer and bears.
“We think this will help to avoid wanton waste,” Johansen said. “It may take a year or two for hunters to get used to it, but I think it will quickly gain popularity.”
That particular change required legislative approval, and received it during the Legislature’s 2020 session.
Most of the other salient changes will increase hunting opportunities. A youth season for bear hunting, for example, will take place on the same weekend as the first split of the youth antlerless deer season.
“We’ve also added a Sunday to the youth squirrel season, and we’ve arranged Sunday closing dates for the buck firearm, antlerless-deer and fall wild turkey seasons,” Johansen said.
He urged all hunters to “look closely at the regs.”
“The basic framework for our deer, bear and fall turkey seasons remain the same,” he continued, “but there are always minor changes that hunters need to be aware of.”