Click to hear Kip Adams interview with MetroNews .
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It didn’t take long for tempers to flare after the most recent meeting of the West Virginia Natural Resources Commission. As reported here, Commissioner Kenny Wilson expressed he would not support a motion to lower West Virginia’s buck limit which presently stands at three across all seasons. He also rejected claims the state’s deer management objectives have driven hunters across the border to state’s like Ohio and Kentucky and resulted in substantial losses of West Virginia hunters.
Wilson said his research, from a fact sheet provided to him on request from the Ohio DNR, indicated 0.7 percent of the Buckeye State’s out-of-state licenses are sold to West Virginians. Jeremy Preston, President of Mountaineer Quality Deer Management Association bristled at the claim.
“That is just blatantly way off the mark. We had a conversation with the licensing coordinator of the Ohio DNR and told him what was said by Commissioner Wilson at the meeting and he laughed,” said Preston. “He looked it up and said West Virginia accounts for 11.5 percent of their out of state sales, 4,335 licenses in 2014. We rank second consistently to Pennsylvania in their non-resident sales.”
Preston and Wilson both still stand by their numbers.
The bigger issue is the meat of the debate. Mountaineer QDMA and West Virginians for Better Buck Management claim there is a growing number of West Virginia hunters who want to see improved opportunities to kill a big buck. Preston maintained there is a desire there, but even he isn’t prepared to offer the best way to attain that goal. But he firmly believed the conversation was needed.
“We’re looking for a more natural, older age structure of deer. More balanced sex ratios, harvests that are more one to one and not more heavily skewed toward bucks,” he said. “The reason for that is hunter satisfaction. More rut activity, more rubs, more sightings, it keeps people excited, engaged and keeps them buying licenses. It keeps people out in the field.”
Preston and his group have arranged a sit down with officials from the West Virginia DNR in the coming days to discuss what they’d like to see.
“We’re just asking folks to come to the table,” he said. “This is what people want, what options do we have and what can we do?”
Wilson said there are three numbers which are relevant in the debate.
“Of the hunters who killed a buck in 2015 only 1.8 percent of those hunters killed a third buck for a total of 1,241 bucks,” said Wilson. “It would have resulted in a quarter Million dollar revenue loss if we didn’t’ have it. Those are real and factual numbers.”
“Some of the other states are going to lower buck limits, but they don’t seem to have the financial problems that West Virginia is claiming we will have,” said Preston. “They’re actually seeing increased overall license sales. Increases in not just resident, but non-resident sales. In terms of retaining and reactivating hunters, who are we after? We’re after younger hunters and that’s a lot of who is engaged in this movement right now.”
Wilson, in his remarks from the head table at the Commission meeting, also noted the national Quality Deer Management Association is NOT pushing for the changes being sought by the chapter organization here in West Virginia. He cited a January 18th phone call with Kip Adams, Director of Education and Outreach of the national Quality Deer Management Association as his source.
Kip Adams backed up the claim in a conversation with MetroNews.
“I actually talked to three West Virginia Commissioners and the first one was Commissioner (Dave) Milne,” said Adams. “He asked me if we were pushing this buck restriction and I told him no we are not.”
Adams said QDMA has a strict three part criteria it follows before it will engage the resources of its national organization in a campaign to change deer regulations in a state. First, the restriction has to protect the majority of yearling bucks. Second it has to be looked at closely by the state wildlife agency and assessed each year to make sure it’s working, and third it must be supported by a majority of hunters. He was approached by Mountaineer QDMA about backing them on the West Virginia issue.
“I looked at the harvest data and the majority of your yearling bucks are already being protected, so I said the national office would not push that or would not support that,” he said. “However, there’s nothing wrong with educating hunters about voluntarily passing younger bucks.”
Adams said from time to time their local chapters don’t necessarily walk lock step with the national organization and will work on their own for an issue. Adams saw nothing wrong with the effort.
“From our end of it, if the majority of West Virginia hunters wanted that I think that would be a good thing,” he said. “Our national office is not pushing it from our end, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a good thing if the majority of hunters wanted it. I say that because in too many states today, the hunters are at odds with the state wildlife agency and that’s never a good thing.”