Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 20, 2012

Big bucks: Gun season underway

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Traditional buck firearms season is underway in the Mountain State with an estimated 330,000 deer hunters expected to participate in the two-week gun season. And as families across southern West Virginia will attest, gun season is a big affair for our area.

In fact, it’s not unusual for many in the region to take the week off from work or even school to head out to the woods — particularly after the big Thanksgiving dinner. For many families living in our area, the start of firearms season is a proud family tradition that has carried down through several generations. It is a chance for fathers and sons — and mothers and daughters — to head out to the woods together.

Gun season is a part of who we are in the mountains of southern West Virginia. But it’s more than just a yearly tradition for families across our region. It’s also a critical economic engine for small businesses across the area.

The state Division of Natural Resources estimates that hunters spend a combined $230 million, and much of that revenue comes from rural areas like southern West Virginia where small businesses depend on the annual income from deer season.

As in past years, buck season runs through Dec. 1 in every county in West Virginia except McDowell, Wyoming, Logan and Mingo due to historically lower numbers of deer in the four counties. The question of opening up the gun season to McDowell, Wyoming, Logan and Mingo counties comes up every year, but the DNR has been resistant to lifting the four-county ban.

Last year hunters in the Mountain State bagged 60,157 bucks, according to the Associated Press. That was a 38 percent increase over the previous year. A large harvest is once again expected during this year’s two-week gun season.

The DNR says good reproduction and a mild winter last year have resulted in an ample supply of 18-month animals, and mast conditions that are favorable. Hunters are limited to two bucks during gun season and three does per year, whether during archery or firearms season.

Above all, safety must come first and foremost for all hunters this year. The last thing anyone wants to see is a headline in the pages of the Daily Telegraph about a hunter being injured or killed.

According to the DNR, all hunters should wear blaze orange, and should always make sure they properly identify their target and what’s behind their target before shooting. Please exercise good judgment and common sense while in the woods.

All hunters in the region are urged to practice safety first. By doing so, they can ensure a safe and fun gun season.