CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Those in charge of the controlled deer hunts in West Virginia State Parks hope a fee might increase the level of commitment for prospective hunters.

State Parks Chief Sam England noted a chronic problem with the controlled hunts on state park lands in recent years has been no-shows. Hunters interested in a State Park hunting permit must enter a lottery, but according to England a high number of those who are successful in getting drawn don’t show up to use the permit.

“Folks will say, ‘Hey this is a really cool thing,'” explained England. “Then by the time the hunt comes around the work schedule changes or the weather is bad, or whatever.”

The lack of participation translates to fewer deer removed and the purpose of the hunt is largely defeated. Now the State Park system wants hunters to put more skin in the game with a non-refundable application fee.

“We believe strongly having a fee to draw into a lottery will put a little more commitment into it and will significantly increase the turnout we’re getting,” said England.

The fee hinges on House Bill 4180 which would authorize the State Park system to asses the fee. The bill has been approved in the House and on Wednesday advanced unanimously out of the Senate Government Organization Committee. It’s expected to be up for first reading Thursday on the Senate floor. According to England, they haven’t established how much that fee would be.

“It’s pretty early to tell. We’ve been bumping around some numbers. We’ve been talking somewhere between $10 and $25,” he explained. “But we’re still trying to decide if that’s the right rate.”

The fee would be a non-refundable application fee, but there has been no discussion, according to England, about actually charging for the hunting permit.

England told members of the Natural Resources Commission the State Parks and the Division of Natural Resources are trying to come up with ways to use less manpower to executed the controlled hunts. Previously hunters were assigned to one spot, sometimes a single tree, for a stand and were not allowed to move. According to England that was labor intensive and done with safety in mind. They are considering a relaxing of the rules.

“We’ve done it to assure safety, but in this new program instead of having a hunter come and hunt for one day, we’ll have one hunter come for three days,” said England. “We’ll create safety zones and open the rest of the park to open hunting. We’ll have fewer hunters who can take multiple deer. What we’ve seen is the hunters who come to these hunts are pretty conscientious and we haven’t had any safety concerns. We feel like we’ll be able to put that to rest.”

The West Virginia State Parks and the DNR are planning for as many as ten controlled hunts on park lands in the coming year, but so far the sites have not been approved. A lot of the planning hinges on House Bill 4180.  Although the aim is to reduce the population of deer in the parks, which is accomplished by killing does, England acknowledged they would continue to have a limited number of permits for either sex drawn on the day of the hunt as an incentive to attract more hunters.

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