W.Va. gun season begins
HUNTINGTON -- Some 330,000 deer hunters took to the woods across West Virginia on Monday for the start of a two-week gun season that the Division of Natural Resources predicts will be slightly better than last year.
Hunters bagged 60,157 bucks in the 2011 season, a 38 percent increase over the previous year, said Curtis Taylor, head of the wildlife resources section. This year, every region should see a similar or higher harvest.
Good reproduction and a mild winter last year have translated to an ample supply of 18-month-old animals, and mast conditions are favorable. Taylor said the DNR has also been conducting spotlight counts in many counties and have seen plenty of deer with big racks.
Donna Mills, a cashier at FasCheck in Salt Rock, said she already noticed an increase in hunters checking deer at their store Monday afternoon.
"I would say we've had between 60 and 80 here today, and that's a little better than last year," Mills said. "We've had a busy day, but that's fine with me. We get busy when these hunters check their deer because when the come in to check, they come in to buy something most of the time. It's a good time, and it's good for business."
The story was the same for several checking stations throughout Cabell County.
By 1:30 Monday afternoon, Steve Lambert, manager at J.C.'s Market, said his store had already checked in 38 deer, including an 11-point and a 10-point buck.
"That's a little more than what we usually do," Lambert said. "I figure it will be (a good week). It's starting out that way."
After they're checked in, J.C.'s takes photos of hunters with their deer and tapes them up on the front window.
"Everybody likes to go out and look at them," he said.
The November firearms season opens the Monday before Thanksgiving every year, so the date can be as early as Nov. 19 or as late as Nov. 25. This is one of the earlier years, and that means hunters are heading out closer to the peak deer rut. Hunters have an advantage when deer are active and distracted.
Hunting is big business for the state. Together, hunters spend a combined $230 million, the DNR says, much of that in rural areas where small businesses depend on the income from deer season.
Hunters are limited to two bucks during gun season and three does per year, whether during archery or firearms season.
Buck season runs through Dec. 1 and is open in every county but Logan, Mingo, McDowell and Wyoming.
Sunday buck hunting is legal only on Nov. 25 and only on private land in 10 counties this year. They are: Boone, Brooke, Clay, Hancock, Jefferson, Lincoln, Marshall, Ohio, Wayne and Wetzel.
Though there is no gun season in Logan, Mingo, McDowell and Wyoming counties, the DNR says archers can bow-hunt in those areas on Nov. 25.
Hunters who want to donate meat to food pantries through the Hunters Helping the Hungry program can visit the DNR website for information or call (304) 558-2771. Mountaineer and Huntington Food Banks distribute the venison.
For a complete list of checking stations in West Virginia, visit www.wvdnr.gov/hunting/check_stations.asp.