WHEELING, W.Va. — Two long talked about changes to the hunting regulations in West Virginia have been approved by the Natural Resources Commission.
During their May 3rd meeting in Wheeling, commissioners approved the 2015 hunting season dates and bag limits as they were proposed, but with two major changes.
One change moved the spring gobbler season for 2016 back a week. For years, many hunters have complained the season starts too late. Biologists have always maintained the season was deliberately set to open on the fourth Monday in April to insure hens are on the nest and less likely to be mistaken and killed by hunters. The season was also set to make certain the bulk of breeding by gobblers was completed. The commission amended the proposal and moved the opening day of spring gobbler season next year to the third Monday in April.
The second major change was legalization of cross bow hunting in West Virginia. The measure was triggered by legislative action. House Bill 2515 which cleared the way for the reintroduction of elk in West Virginia also included the legalization of crossbows as a rider amendment. The two measures were folded together as part of last night of the session horsetrading in the House and Senate. The legislation called for crossbows to be legal in all big game firearms seasons and instructed the Natural Resources Commission to also establish a crossbow hunting season in West Virginia.
During the Wheeling meeting, members of the commission approved the crossbow season to start on the opening day of archery season and run until the end of the year, starting in the 2015 season.
The legislation did not require a crossbow license. Therefore hunters choosing to use a crossbow will only need the necessary license required for bow hunting to be legal for using a cross bow. Crossbows for many years were illegal in West Virginia, but were legalized for handicapped hunters a few years ago.
Crossbow hunting will be legal statewide in West Virginia with the exception of Mingo, Logan, McDowell, and Wyoming Counties. Commissioners sought to preserve the restriction of hunting in the four coalfield counties to bow and arrow only, as it has been for several decades. Crossbows will not be allowed for hunting in those counties at any time.