September’s advent has West Virginia’s bowhunters thinking about the upcoming archery-and-crossbow season for deer.
If they want, though, they can get in three weeks’ worth of tree-stand time before the Sept. 26 season opener, simply by taking part in an urban archery hunt.
West Virginia law allows cities, towns and homeowner associations to conduct special hunts within their jurisdictions. The season for urban hunts opened on Saturday and will run through Dec. 31, with an additional split scheduled for Jan. 11-30, 2021. Hunts are scheduled in 18 towns and housing developments.
Chris Ryan, game management services supervisor for the state Division of Natural Resources, said urban hunts allow hunters an opportunity to take up to seven extra deer, none of which count against their regular archery or crossbow seasonal bag limits.
Most of those deer will be antlerless. State law requires that the first deer taken must be antlerless, and no more than two antlered bucks can be taken. In addition, some municipalities customize their hunts by adding their own special regulations to the DNR’s.
Many urban hunts restrict hunters to certain areas, and most require hunters to shoot from tree stands in the interest of public safety.
In addition, the state also allows municipalities and homeowners’ associations to issue permits for hunts, to conduct lotteries for permits or hunting spots, to require special permission from landowners, to prohibit hunting on Saturdays, to require hunters to attend a bowhunter-education class, restrict participation to residents, and to charge administrative fees.
The state began allowing the hunts in the 1990s, when deer populations began to spiral out of control in towns such as Wheeling, Morgantown, Weirton, Barboursville and Charleston.
DNR biologists knew that the best way to control whitetail numbers is persuade hunters to kill more female deer, so they drew up regulations that ensured most of the deer taken would be antlerless.
“Being able to take those extra deer means you can have a direct impact on your area by helping control the deer population,” Ryan said. “It’s also a great way to fill your freezer with meat and donate any leftovers to Hunters Helping the Hungry or a local charity that accepts wild game.”
In Morgantown, for example, urban hunters can donate their kills to a community kitchen sponsored by a local church. Since 2011, sportsmen and sportswomen have donated more than 8,000 pounds of venison to the kitchen.
Bag limits for the urban hunts might be generous, but all other state hunting regulations apply. Hunters must be properly licensed, and they may only hunt during legal shooting hours — one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
Ryan, a frequent participant in the hunt held in his hometown, said one hidden benefit of the urban season is the sheer amount of time it allows a hunter to participate in his or her favorite pastime.
“One of my favorite things is that you can set up a tree stand not far from your house so you can hunt in the morning and again in the evening when you get home from work,” he said.