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Early Seasons Offer Unique Opportunity


It may be one of the first times many hunters use their dove hunting gear to go deer hunting.   A special antlerless deer season will open Monday, September 14th in 36-West Virginia Counties.

"Those are the counties where we are still exceeding our population levels," said DNR Biologist Gary Foster. "We feel the taking of some additional antlerless deer in these counties makes sense."

The first week, September 14-19 will be a special archery season.  The second week, September 21-26 will be a special muzzleloader season.    Muzzleloading enthusiasts have long clamored for better positioning in the state’s lineup of various hunting seasons.   The specialized antlerless season was somewhat designed with them in mind.

"Temperatures will be a little warmer.  One of the complaints we commonly get from our muzzleloader hunters is that it can be awfully cold in the middle of December," Foster said. "It impacts participation, particularly among youngsters and the elderly."

Although the temperatures may be far more comfortable for hunting, it can also complicate the post hunting plans.   Meat can begin to spoil rapidly once the animal hits the ground and hunters will need to make quick work of the field dressing process and get the meat into a cooler or meat locker far faster than the cold days of November and December. 

The DNR has long resisted efforts to add the early muzzleloader season for fear of negative repercussions on the rifle season during the two weeks around Thanksgiving.  A muzzleloader season the week before the bucks only gun season in neighboring Virginia has been harmful to the success of white tail hunters in the Old Dominion.  Foster believes there is enough separation from this special week-long season and the restrictions to antlerless deer only will prevent any negative impact.  

He anticipates hunters will have success, but they’ll have to adapt to conditions which may be unfamiliar.    Deer habits and feeding patterns so early in the year change considerably from the normal fall season.  Still, Foster predicts a high rate of success, but it unsure of just how many hunters will take part. 

"We anticipate harvesting 2,500 to 3,000 deer during the archery season and maybe 7,500 during the early muzzleloader season," said Foster.


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