CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Jim Justice has become famous for his use of props to drive home his points.

During his inauguration, the Governor delivered his first speech using a hatchet and tackle box purchased on a Wyoming County roadside from a woman trying to make ends meet. He said the two items illustrated the struggle many West Virginians faced with the downturn in the southern West Virginia economy.

Later, few could forget when he lifted the lid on a silver platter in the Capitol rotunda to reveal a fresh pile of cow manure on a copy of the legislature’s budget bill. It was the Justice way of delivering his message accompanied by his veto.

On Friday, he used another prop in his press conference to herald improved revenue figures for the state. The governor was trying to make a point about viewing news through a positive lens. So he started by objecting to a line of questioning that he considered to be a non-story.

This time, his prop was a big yellow sign that read, “Corn for Deer only. No bear, turkey, raccoon, or other wildlife welcome.”

It was an answer to a question I asked of the administration after it was raised by some MetroNews listeners about a winning picture in the recent Division of Tourism photo contest.

The picture, which appeared to have be taken by a trail camera, depicted a number of black bears lounging in a field. However, the bears were grazing over what appeared to be corn poured onto the ground.

WV Dept. of Commerce

One of the winning photos in the “Almost Heaven” photo contest by the W.Va. Division of Tourism. Governor Justice called the image “unbelievable”

The image raised the eyebrows of some West Virginia sportsmen since hunting bears over bait is illegal, as is feeding bears and other wildlife. Since the circumstances of the picture are hard to know, nobody raised questions of whether the photo was legal.

But the question sportsmen ponder is whether the picture depicts the proper image for West Virginia’s wildlife.

Justice indicated he believes it absolutely does.

“I thought it was unbelievable,” said the Governor in commenting on the winning photograph. “I thought, you know for something in regard to tourism that could promote people to come to our state and everything, especially hunters who don’t think we have a lot of bears, here’s eleven of them in one picture.”

During his discussion with the gathered press corps at the Capital, Justice noted the often prickly issue of baiting in West Virginia. He acknowledged it is illegal to bait for bears, turkey, or other wildlife but also noted is is legal to hunt whitetail deer over bait.

“I don’t really know how to keep the bears from coming by if there’s some corn out there and there’s a trail camera there. I don’t know how to tell that trail camera to not take a picture of the bears,” said the Governor.

“But the best way I can figure out to do this, is we’re going to put this sign up that says for the bears not to come around and eat the corn, or the turkeys or the raccoons.”

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