By Hoy Murphy
West Virginia has become a popular destination for hunters from across the country and wildlife associated recreation has a more than 750 million dollar economic impact in our state. Because West Virginia is mostly rural with mixed hardwood forests and small farms, it is nearly 100 percent ideal habitat for whitetail deer. Deer populations abound in every county, and liberal hunting seasons and bag limits increase the chances for a successful hunting adventure.
However, some parts of the state have too many deer, causing conflicts with farmers
and backyard gardeners
. Increasing construction and development of land have put deer and people in the same areas, making life more difficult for man and animal alike.
Much of this conflict between man and animal occur in urban areas and on private land that is not open to hunting. Management of deer populations on private land with restricted access has always been a challenge to Division of Natural Resources
(DNR) officials, but controlling the antlerless deer harvest through hunting seasons
is the key to a well balanced and healthy deer herd.
Steps have been taken to reduce the population in areas where deer numbers are above DNR’s management objectives, while providing additional opportunities for the thousands of people who enjoy hunting in our state. Several municipalities have scheduled “urban deer hunts
” within city limits for archery hunters. Stonewall Resort State Park
and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory
have scheduled special controlled hunts to ensure the proper management of deer populations on their property. For the first time in history, the Natural Resources Commission scheduled early antlerless deer seasons in September for both archery
hunters. Extended hunting seasons are scheduled in the fall for antlerless deer
in counties that are above their management objectives, especially on private property. Special days for youth hunters
are also part of the mix to encourage youngsters and even entire families to enjoy this traditional outdoor sport while helping to control the deer population.
You can help with these efforts. If you enjoy hunting, invite a friend who’s never been hunting before and teach him or her the fun and excitement a day in the woods can bring. Many children have parents who are too busy or too unsure of themselves to try hunting, so you can step in and offer to show them how. It’s an excellent opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Even if you don’t hunt, more than 300,000 people in West Virginia do and it’s likely that you have family members and friends who do. If they live out of state, invite them to visit for the holidays when the hunting seasons are scheduled, and make a hunting trip part of the reunion. They will return home with some great stories to tell and a desire to come back next year, maybe to stay.
A word of caution: safety is of the utmost importance in our state’s great hunting tradition. In most instances, hunters are required to pass a Hunter Safety Education
class before they can purchase hunting licenses
. These classes have been successful in reducing the number of hunting-related injuries and fatalities during hunting seasons, and it just makes good sense to make sure your hunting adventure is a safe one. The friendly folks at the Division of Natural Resources can help you find a class in your area, and point you in the direction of public land
and private land where you can enjoy your deer hunt. Call your local DNR district office
, the main office in South Charleston
at 304-558-2771, or go online at www.wvdnr.gov
for lots of useful information to help you prepare for the fall hunting seasons.