CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than a quarter Million hunters will cloak themselves in blaze orange and be in the woods for the opening day of the buck firearms season in West Virginia. The Monday before Thanksgiving is the traditional season opening date and hasn’t wavered from that day for generations since the season was established.
Because of the high number of hunters in the woods, the bulk of the deer which will be killed during the two week season are taken in the first three days.
“A large percent of the harvest comes in on the first two days of the season. A lot of people will hunt Monday and Tuesday and maybe a half-day Wednesday. Those are the big days,” said Gary Foster, Game Management Supervisor for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
Because of the heavy pressure on those first days, a larger number of deer will be killed, but Foster and other biologists stress just because the first few days of the season have passed doesn’t mean the chances for success have diminished. He added the chances for success and the forecast for the 2019 harvest are about the same as last year when hunters killed around 44,500 bucks during the two week buck firearms season.
“We’ve had a couple of good mast years and this year’s mast is pretty good, so we would anticipate a harvest very similar to last year. However, it’s really dependent on weather in the first couple of days. That can be critical,” he said.
The weather has largely no impact on the deer, but it can drive a lot of hunters out of the woods earlier which reduces the chances of success.
Although it’s often referred to as “buck season” by many, the name is more traditional than descriptive. Truthfully, with proper permits, in many counties hunters can kill a buck or a doe for the entire two week season. The liberalized bag limit for antlerless deer is aimed at reducing the population in counties where deer numbers have grown past the land’s capacity to carry them. In fact, in 11 West Virginia counties hunters have to kill a doe before they can take a second buck. Those counties include: Berkeley, Calhoun, southern Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, eastern Mineral, Monroe, Morgan, Preston, and Wood.
Another unique feature for the 2019 buck season is hunters in 51 West Virginia counties can also kill a bear for the entire two week firearms season.
“A concurrent bear firearms season running alongside a buck firearms season and an antlerless firearms season. That’s something that is pretty special and something you don’t see in a lot of other states,” Foster said.
The counties not included in the bear season are Mingo, Logan, Wyoming, and McDowell Counties where firearms hunting for deer is prohibited.
There are also special regulations in effect for parts of the eastern panhandle where the prevalence of chronic wasting disease is monitored. During the first two days of the 2019 season, hunters who kill a deer in Berkeley, Morgan, and Mineral Counties are required to bring their deer to a carcass checkpoint where biologists can collect tissue samples for continued surveillance for CWD.
The locations are :
- -Murphy’s Shell 5263 Hedgesville Road, Hedgesville
- Rolling Acres Deer Processing 93 Holstein Drive, Martinsburg
- Shanghai Grocery, 115 Tuscarora Pike
- Hernandez Store, 8240 Apple Harvest Drive, Gerrardstown
- Knobley Farm, 7789 Northwestern Pike, New Creek
- Ray’s Texaco, 7501 Fort Ashby Road, Keyser
- Mineral County Fairgrounds, Route 28, Fort Ashby
- Press Little Market, 996 Frankfort Highway, Ridgeley
- Flying W Farms, 2939 Northwestern Pike, Burlington
- Roy’s Service Center, 205 South Washington Street, Berkeley Springs
- Ridge State Fish Hatchery, 12051 Valley Road, Berkeley Springs
- Stony Creek Country Store, 17094 Cacapon Road, Great Cacapon
Hunters killing deer elsewhere in West Virginia are required to check them in via the electronic check system of ELS. Hunters must keep the code generated by the process as proof.
The buck season concludes December 7.