Click to hear Commissioner Kenny Wilson’s remarks

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Several speakers addressed the Natural Resources Commission last Sunday, seeking a change in regulations to lower the limit on bucks which can be killed in West Virginia.  Presently West Virginia’s license allows for a three buck limit.  Those speaking in favor of a change would like to see that lowered to two or even one.  Others have requested point restrictions or antler size restrictions to insure young bucks live to a higher level of maturity.

But at least one member of the commission will not be in favor of such a change.   It’s rare for commissioners to make any statements during the meeting, but Commissioner Kenny Wilson of Chapmanville spoke up and made it clear he would not be in favor of scaling back the buck limit.

“We look at three things.  We look at biological, sociological, and financial. We have to look at all three of those things,” said Wilson. “While personally you may support the issue, you have to put those feelings aside.”

Although advocates of the change cited other states’ regulations in their arguments for a lower buck kill, Wilson said the price isn’t worth it.  He cited Division of  Natural Resources data which indicated 1,241 bucks killed in 2015 were a third buck.  A total of 1.8 percent of the hunters who killed a buck in West Virginia killed three bucks according to the data.  Wilson added in his remarks the revenue from those extra buck tags sold in 2015 was $236,000.

“West Virginia is hurting.  We’ve already endured a four percent reduction in the budget. We could be facing a 6.5 percent cut and on top of that we could lose $236,000?,” said Wilson. “We could lose personnel over this or we could lose programs. ”

Wilson worried one of the first programs to go would be Archery in Schools.

“It may seem insignificant, but Archery in Schools is in 300 schools across West Virginia,” he said. “I can’t support that.”

Wilson added he had checked with biologists who maintain there’s no biological reason to lower the limit.  The agency’s staff added it was doubtful hunters would notice the difference on the ground if the buck limit was lowered.

Jeremy Rose, speaking for the group West Virginians for Better Bucks claimed an online petition drive to lower the limit netted 3,000 signatures.  Jeremy Preston of Quality Deer Management Association of West Virginia told commissioners too many young bucks were being killed in the state.

“We want to see improvement of buck management and we’re killing too many young bucks,” he said. “All options need to be on the table.”

The speakers declared hunting has changed and today’s hunter has a wealth of information available to them about the best way to manage deer to create and maintain larger bucks.  The speakers added technology, such as game cameras, has enabled a hunter to see the deer herd in their hunting area in a way they never have before.  They added many have been able to narrow down their season long pursuit to a single big buck.

“The culture of hunting has changed,” said Preston. “West Virginia needs to act or get left behind.”

The group cited statistics which claimed more and more West Virginia hunters have given up on West Virginia and are instead hunting in neighboring Ohio and Kentucky where limits are more strict and the average maturity of bucks is reflected.

Wilson disagreed and said the loss of hunting license sales was not due to people heading across the border.

“The numbers don’t bare that out in Ohio,” said Wilson. “Zero-point-seven percent of their out of state hunters are from West Virginia.  That’s straight off of Ohio’s annual report.”

Wilson said the loss of hunting license sales in West Virginia is due to the loss of people period.

“It’s on lost population.  It’s just a fact, if there’s nobody here they’re not here to buy the license.  Boone County schools have lost 400 students and I’ve heard it’s more than that.    But if a student leaves, his dad leaves,”  said Wilson. “Down where I live it’s an exodous out of here.  People are leaving here in droves over the coal industry.”

Wilson closed his remarks with a tongue lashing for some who spoke in support of a lowered buck limit.   He said they had not been completely forthcoming with the commission.

“They kept saying, and it was in the minutes of the meeting, QDMA, QDMA (Quality Deer Management Association),” said Wilson. “But Kip Adams, the director of education and outreach for National QDMA called me January 18th and told me that QDMA was NOT supporting a buck reduction or antler restriction in West Virginia.  That didn’t sit very well.  If you’re going to say something at least be up front about it.”

Sportsmen still have the chance to weigh in on the subject and what they would like to see done in the way of game management in West Virginia. All of the Wildlife Resources Section’s proposals for the coming season are now out for public comment. Those comments can be made in person during the sectional meetings in March or via email or traditional mail.  The recommendations will be voted on by the Natural Resources Commission at its May meeting.  But Wilson made it abundantly clear, on this topic, he will not be supportive.

“I just can’t support that under our current budget crises, I’m sorry,” he said. “Now if it’s biologically unsound it would be a different subject totally, because we have to protect the herd.  But if it’s not…”

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