BECKLEY, W.Va. — The early black bear hunting seasons for 2018 are complete and indications are the number of bears killed in those seasons remained fairly steady in West Virginia.
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Bear Project Leader Colin Carpenter revealed the numbers on last Saturday’s West Virginia Outdoors. Hunters in Mingo, Logan, Wyoming, and McDowell Counties in the earliest season killed 110 bears. A seven day early season in the traditional mountain counties resulted in 310 bears killed, which was down from last year, but according to Carpenter still within the range of the normal numbers taken there. The final early season was in Boone, Fayette, Raleigh, and Kanawha Counties. Hunters in those four counties killed just under 80 bears–which is within ten of the number killed in 2017.
“The harvest has been staying pretty stable in the early season,” Carpenter said.
Originally the early seasons were created for a couple of reasons. First, to hopefully reduce the number of black bears in those areas where they’ve grown beyond what is considered the proper number and second to give bear hunters additional hunting opportunities. By staging the hunts in September and early October biologist say they have insured at least some of those bears killed are females, which will stem the population growth.
The biggest drawback is the temperature. The first season, held over Labor Day weekend, had hunters and their dogs coping with triple digit heat. but Carpenter said evidently it didn’t deter anyone.
“It doesn’t seem to and we weren’t sure when we opened the season that early if that would deter participation,” he explained. “But you have to remember a lot of these hunters have been training their dogs all summer anyway in those temperatures so they were used to it.”
Still, hunters had to take precautions to protect their prized hounds.
“Some guys I talked to said they separated dogs so they’d have one group resting one day so you’d have some to run the next,” he said. “It’s so steep and so hot, it can be rough.”
Still sportsmen have responded to the early seasons positively and continue to travel to the southern coalfields for a hunting trip.
“We’ve been doing it so long, especially in Raleigh, Boone, Fayette, and Kanawha County, I have never talked to a hunter who hasn’t participated in at least one of those early seasons,” Carpenter said.
This weekend there is another early bear season to coincide with the antlerless hunting seasons on private land in some counties of West Virginia.