ELKINS, W.Va. — The second annual Mountaineer Heritage Hunting season opens Thursday and runs through Sunday statewide in West Virginia.

The season was created a a “primitive weapons” season for hunters to enjoy using throwback implements to hunt deer and bear in the Mountain State. Hunters are limited to side-lock and percussion caps or flintlock muzzleloading rifles and pistols. Scopes are not allowed. Archery hunters may only use long bows or re-curve bows.

A year ago the season seemed to catch some hunters off guard. It was the first time a season for deer or bear was opened after the first of the year. This year the Division of Natural Resources believed more will participate.

“We got a lot of good feedback. People were going out and buying a rifle to use or long bow to use. People really seemed to enjoy it,” said Brett Skelly, Assistant Deer Project Leader for the West Virginia DNR.

During the inaugural season in 2018 hunters killed 659 deer and one bear. The bear was killed in Preston County. Skelly anticipated with increased interest and favorable weather, hunters may do better this season.

“I would think it would go up, since people are more familiar with it. As far as harvest, I think it will be largely the same for deer, but maybe this year, we’ll get two bear. We’ll see.” he said.

It’s an either sex hunting season, causing concern for some who worry it could result in a disproportionate ratio of bucks or does being taken, since bucks are starting to drop their antlers for the year. But Skelly said data from last year’s hunt indicated that’s not as big a concern as some might think.

“We put a category in for hunters to mark whether their buck had shed when they check in their kill. That number was fairly low, only about 10 percent of hunters who killed a buck indicated it had already shed its antlers,” Skelly said.

Hunters who want to participate will need to get their 2020 hunting license and will need to wear blaze orange, since it’s a firearms season for deer. Those hunting in the four archery only counties of southern West Virginia will not have to wear blaze orange, since there is no rifle season there, but even archery hunters in other parts of the state are required to wear orange while hunting.

The season runs through Sunday.