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Ideal weather greets buck hunters, DNR says

West Virginia’s annual firearm season for buck deer opened on Monday under cold, clear and calm skies, and hunters wasted no time taking advantage of the near-ideal conditions.

“If I had to draw an opening day of buck season up, I’d be hard pressed to come up with anything better than this morning,” said Paul Johansen, wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources. “We had a skiff of snow on the ground in some of the state’s higher elevations, which made for ideal hunting conditions. Throughout the state, it shaped up to be a great opening day, weather-wise.”

Roughly half of the annual firearm buck kill takes place during the season’s first three days. Johansen said that if bad weather doesn’t keep hunters out of the woods, the heaviest kill occurs on opening day and it tapers off after that.

By mid-afternoon on Monday, hunters using the state’s electronic game-checking system had registered more than 5,000 whitetails. Johansen expected the total to rise sharply before the day ended.

“We always see a sharp uptick toward the end of the day, when hunters come out of the woods and head for their camps or head home,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the opening-day harvest comes in at 15,000 or more.”

With the ideal hunting conditions, many hunters killed their deer and were out of the woods by late morning. Tom Mullins, a Charleston resident who killed a doe in Putnam County, said he heard “a lot of shooting” just after daybreak.

“Just about all the shots came between 7:15 and 8:15, then it quieted down,” he said. “My hunting time is very limited, so I took the first deer that came along.”

Hunting antlerless deer is legal during the buck season in certain counties, provided hunters have purchased valid antlerless-deer permits before the season began.

Wayne Fisher said he and his grandfather, Roger Patton, heard between 10 and 15 shots while they were in the woods. Fisher killed a seven-point buck and Patton killed a young “spike” buck. Fisher said both the bucks were chasing a doe.

Division of Natural Resources officials predicted that hunters would see plenty of mating-related activity. Johansen said this year’s opening day happened to fall near the peak of the whitetail “rut,” or mating season.

Bucks preoccupied with mating tend to lose some of their inherent wariness, and that makes them more vulnerable to hunters. Steve Keffer of Huntington was happy they were. Early on opening morning, a nice 10-point buck wandered into his sights.

“I saw three does before I saw the buck,” he said. “It’s a pretty nice buck. I’m planning to have it mounted.”

Hunting in Braxton County, Randall Lacey was happy to be out of the woods early. A week earlier, he had dropped a propane tank on his foot and crushed a few toes. Wearing a walking boot, he bagged the first deer he saw — a seven-point buck.

“It was a relief to be finished so quickly,” said the Lincoln County resident.

Despite a good red-oak acorn crop that threatened to scatter deer widely and make them more difficult to hunt, a few hunters reported seeing good numbers of whitetails.

“I saw about eight does before I saw a buck,” said Donald White of Sissonville. “The seven-pointer I killed wasn’t chasing the does, though. He came through later, just floating along by himself.”

Elbert Taylor of St. Albans said he and his two hunting buddies saw seven whitetails and got two of them — a seven-pointer and a button buck.

“Apart from that, there wasn’t a huge amount of activity,” he added.

Weather forecasts call for good hunting conditions to prevail through the wee hours of Wednesday morning, when rain showers are predicted. If the forecasts hold, those showers should blow through by noon on Wednesday and allow hunters to hunt the rest of the day in comfortable conditions.

“If the forecast holds, I think we’re in for a good season,” Johansen said. “I think the harvest will comfortably reach the 40,000-to-45,000 range.”

Cabell library joins publisher boycott

HUNTINGTON — The Cabell County Library and its affiliates are joining large library systems across the country in suspending purchases of all electronic versions of Macmillan Publishers’ new releases, in a protest against the publishing house’s planned restrictions on library sales.

Among libraries participating in the boycott are the Columbus Metropolitan Library, the Nashville Public Library, the Maryland Digital Library and Washington state’s King County Library System. The protest is in collaboration with partners in the Digital Downloads Collaboration.

Cabell County Library offers eBooks and eAudiobooks through the vendor platform OverDrive. All Western County Regional Libraries cardholders may recognize this service under the names WVREADS, OverDrive, or Libby.

Beginning Nov. 1, Macmillan Publishers enacted an embargo, prohibiting public libraries from purchasing more than one eBook copy of all new titles for eight weeks after their release. This means that public libraries are not allowed to buy eBooks from Macmillan even though copies are available for individuals to purchase through regular retail sites.

As a public library, Cabell County Library has an ethical obligation to ensure that library patrons have access to a broad range of material, library leaders said in a press release.

“As public servants, librarians are obliged to spend library funds effectively and responsibly,” the release reads. “Any publisher or vendor that creates a barrier between library patrons and information access impinges on a library’s ability to use local tax dollars responsibly.”

Digital content is fast becoming the preferred — or only — access to books for many readers. Just last year, Cabell County Libraries had over 105,500 downloads, and will exceed that number by at least 16% this year, according to the release.

The library said a single copy of a new title in eBook format for a period of two months is not sufficient nor is it acceptable. In some instances, this embargo will force readers to wait a year or more to borrow an eBook.

Macmillan is one of the largest book publishers operating in the U.S., with titles like “Holes,” “Ender’s Game,” and “A Wrinkle in Time” to its name.

Macmillan CEO John Sargent said in an open letter that a surge in e-book borrowing has unsettled a publishing ecosystem that assumed a certain set of obstacles to accessing free library books, such as having transportation and needing to physically return the book by its due date.

“We believe the very rapid increase in the reading of borrowed e-books decreases the perceived economic value of a book,” he wrote. “I know that you pay us for these e-books, but to the reader, they are free.”

Sargent noted that Macmillan now gives libraries perpetual access to their copies of its e-books and also cut the price.

The boycott is an extension of libraries’ protests of the new policy. The American Library Association asked the public in September for help pressing Macmillan to rethink the embargo, including through petitions its members have posted on their websites.

More than 200,000 readers so have signed the #eBooksForAll campaign petition.

The Cabell County Library has chosen to boycott Macmillan Publishers’ eBooks until further notice. During this time, no new Macmillan eBooks will be added to the digital collection. The library will continue to purchase Macmillan products in other formats, which are not affected by Macmillan’s implemented embargo.

For more information about other download and streaming options available free with a library card, visit cabell.lib.wv.us or contact Sara Ramezani at sramezan@cabell.lib.wv.us.

Governor touts state's job numbers

In what may be a template for his 2020 reelection campaign, Gov. Jim Justice urged West Virginians Monday to be thankful for figures that he said shows the state economy and state employment are growing.

“We ought to be celebrating, and running up and down the streets. It’s amazing,” Justice said at his first press conference at the Capitol in three months.

Justice cited Workforce West Virginia figures showing that state employers have added about 19,000 jobs in 2019. In October, the state had 763,000 jobs.

That number is at odds with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which puts the state’s payroll employment at 733,100 for October, up 3,200 jobs from October 2018, an increase of 0.4%.

The number also doesn’t appear to be supported by state personal income tax collections, which through October are running $28.96 million below projections, and are just $3.14 million above the same point in 2018, at $661.14 million.

Steve Roberts, West Virginia Chamber of Commerce president, suggested that the federal employment numbers might not be reliable.

“I’m not really one to call names or point fingers, but some would say certainly the civil service that some refer to as the ‘deep state’ in Washington are the ones responsible for those numbers,” Roberts said Monday.

Roberts also did not directly address why personal income tax collections have been flat so far in the 2019-20 budget year despite an apparent jump in employment, but cited growth in income taxes since 2014.

Meanwhile, Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow told legislators last week to treat the employment numbers with a grain of salt. “The employment picture is not as good as it looks on paper, or at Workforce West Virginia,” Muchow said at the time.

Nonetheless, the narrative of Justice’s press conference Monday was one of state economic growth, driven by, in his words, less regulation, lower taxes, passage of a Right to Work law, changes to the court system and “a more conservative court.”

Using a sports metaphor, Justice contended that the state economy is winning, despite having its star player on the bench.

“We don’t have the coal industry today ... it’s absolutely sputtering,” he said. “We’re back winning without our superstar.”

A major downturn in natural gas prices and coal prices and production has left the state budget with a $33.26 million shortfall through October, but Justice said Monday he’s optimistic that there’s still time for growth in other areas of the economy to make up the difference.

“Hopefully, we’re not going to have to cut anything, but we still want to do the prudent and right thing,” said Justice, who in October called on state agency heads to come up with a total of $100 million in spending cuts for the 2019-20 budget year, in the event the revenue shortfall continues.

The downturn follows a record year for tax collections in 2018-19.

Also Monday, Justice gave himself credit for the improving economy, calling himself the bandleader who was able to put all pieces of the puzzle together.

“You’ve got a leader of the band who’s not a politician, but a business guy,” Justice said of himself.

To that end, when Major League Baseball announced a proposal to eliminate 42 minor league baseball teams in 2021, including three of the four teams in West Virginia, Justice said he was able to pick up the phone and get MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on the line.

“It’s really important that you’ve got a leader of the band that’s having these discussions directly with the head guy in order to be able to make things happen so that we don’t lose something that’s an economic driver, and something that people really enjoy,” Justice said.

Meanwhile, as he does frequently, Justice criticized local media for putting “a negative slant on things.”

Addressing reporters, he said, “We try everyday to get more and more and more folks to come to West Virginia. You have a profound impact on that.”

Annual memorial tree lit in Kenova

The holiday season can be tough when you are missing someone from the table, so the residents of Ceredo and Kenova gather each year to remember those who are no longer with them to bring community to what could be lonely time for some.

The 13th annual Kenova Memorial Christmas Tree Lighting took place Monday at the Kenova United Methodist Church.

The tree, which is illuminated by more than 10,000 lights, is a 32-foot-tall Fraser fir planted in 1995 by the Kenova Beautification Committee.

Designating the tree as a memorial was the idea of Charlotte Webb, whose son, Michael, died in a car accident in 2005. The tree now honors hundreds of loved ones each year.