CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The number of deer killed during West Virginia’s two-week gun season for bucks dropped 12 percent compared with the 2004 season, due in part to previous efforts to reduce deer populations statewide, Division of Natural Resources officials say.

Poor acorn production in previous years, combined with severe winter weather at higher elevations, also may have contributed to population declines and lower kill rates this fall, the DNR said.

Hunters killed 56,347 bucks during the season that ran from Nov. 21 to Dec. 3, down from last year’s total of 63,673. Last year’s total also represented a 12 percent drop from the 2003 gun season.

“The statewide numbers make the situation look a little worse than it really is,” said Paul Johansen, assistant chief of the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Section. “The bottom line is that we now have fewer counties with deer populations that exceed the numbers called for in our management guidelines.”

Last year, 12 of the state’s 55 counties had more deer than their habitat could support. That total dropped to seven counties this year.

“That was by design. Where we’ve had populations that were above our management guidelines, we’ve been pretty liberal with our antlerless-deer (kill),” Johansen said. “At the same time, though, we’ve also backed off hunting pressure in counties where deer herds have declined below the numbers called for in our guidelines.”

In 2004, DNR officials began easing the antlerless-deer kill in several of the state’s high-altitude counties.

“In Preston, Tucker, Randolph, Pocahontas and Pendleton counties — all counties where we wanted to bring the buck kill back up — the kill was higher this year than it was last year,” Johansen said.

Preston County led the state in the number of bucks killed with 2,242. Mason County was second with 2,150, followed by Hardy, 2,037; Jackson, 1,983; Hampshire, 1,964; Wood, 1,683; Roane, 1,675; Wetzel, 1,669; Monongalia, 1,650; and Marshall, 1,578.

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Information from: The Charleston Gazette, http://www.wvgazette.com

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