Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 20, 2012

Earlier gun season gives hunters an advantage

By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — A combination of good food in the wild, good weather and the mating season have generated just the right conditions for one of recent memory’s best deer hunting seasons in West Virginia.

A local sporting goods business was seeing the results of this year’s hunting Monday morning as hunters arrived to have their catches tagged. About a dozen deer were checked in.

“Yes, this has probably been of one of best years so far,” said owner Howard Hill of H&S Sporting Goods in Princeton. “Up until this time we’ve seldom seen this many in one morning. Most of have been six, seven, eight — a couple of spikes — but most have been six, seven, eight pointers and a 10. But they’re big racks, they’re big bucks. They had a pretty good food mast last year, so that’s what made the racks good this year.”

The mast in a forest is the collection of berries, nuts and other foods wildlife consume throughout the year. Good reproduction among deer and a mild winter last year has generated a large number of 18-month-old deer, according to the Associated press.

Besides good food supplies, this is the time of year when bucks are looking for mates; this means they will be active and roaming, Hill said.

“The rut is just about right in the middle (of the season). The bucks are chasing the does. It’s just about perfect this time. The weather and the rut and everything is just about perfect,” he explained.

Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources have also pointed at this year’s combination of good conditions as the reason to expect a good hunting season. Hunters bagged 60,157 bucks in 2011, a 38 percent increase more than 2010, Chris Taylor, head of the wildlife resource section said. The state can expect a similar or higher number of bucks harvested this year.

“We had a good mast crop last year,” said Lt. W.W. Brogan, one of the natural resources police officers with DNR law enforcement section. “We’ve got a healthy deer herd this year. We’re seeing reports from our wildlife people in the field and our hunters in the field that there’s a lot of nice bucks this year.”

Brogan agreed that the good weather forecast for southern West Virginia and the rest of the state would contribute to exceptional results this hunting season. Clement weather makes life easier for hunters. Good weather also makes deer more active; when conditions are rainy, deer bed down and are harder to locate, Brogan said.

Thinking about safety, Brogan took the opportunity to emphasize one of the chief rules hunters must follow; they must wear attire that makes them more visible and less likely to be mistaken for an animal.

“Our hunters need to wear 400 square inches of blaze orange,” he said.

Brogan also urged hunters to report any poaching or other violations they may witness. Hunters can call the state DNR at 304-256-6945, their local 911 center, or go on the Internet to wvdnr.gov — the website has a link for reporting poaching.

Buck season runs until Dec. 1 and is open in every county but Logan, Mingo, Wyoming and McDowell. Sunday buck hunting is legal only on Nov. 25 and only on private land in 10 counties this year. They include Boone, Brooke, Clay, Hancock, Jefferson, Lincoln, Marshall, Ohio, Wayne and Wetzel counties.

Delegate Clif Moore, D-McDowell, said he would see if bringing deer hunting to McDowell County is possible if the public expresses a desire for it.

“I’m sure with a large and avid hunting population in McDowell County, there should be some consideration at least to introduce hunting in McDowell,” Moore said. “What I would like to do from that perspective is conduct public hearings with the hunting population and other interested people to see if there is an interest in getting hunting in McDowell County. If there is an interest, we’ll put forth the effort to see what we can or cannot do to get some hunting in McDowell.”