3:06pm: Hotline with Dave Weekley

A Look Back at 2010 in WV Outdoors


The biggest outdoor story of 2010 remains one of the most discussed topics around the bar stools, barber shops, lamp houses, and any other gathering place where outdoorsmen come together in West Virginia.

The 2010 buck season saw hunters bring home just over 43,000 bucks in the two week season.  The total is more than 30-percent lower than the 2009 harvest.   The results come as an eyebrow raiser to some, and a big “I told you so to others.”   

The theories of the lower harvest are attributed to a myriad of contributing factors.   The mast failure of 2009 which was followed by a long, harsh winter of 2010 is believed to have created far more winter mortality than anybody anticipated.   Callers to West Virginia Outdoors in the weeks after the release of the numbers blame an overharvest of deer with liberalized antlerless hunting opportunities.   Others believe the DNR hasn’t gone far enough with the harvest and theorize the over population of whitetails in parts of the state added to the disaster with too many deer trying to live on too little food.  The lack of browse from a significant reduction in the state’s timber harvest has even been suggested.  An abundance of mast may have kept deer from straying far from their home range.   The full moon which coincided with the opening week of the season could have caused more deer to go “nocturnal.”   As always, weather could have been a contributing factor with high temperatures on day one and rain and snow on subsequent days in the first week of the season.

The real reason for the significant downturn in hunter success in the two week buck season probably lies in one of those theories, or in all of them.   The one sure bet is the March Sportsmen’s Sectional Meetings promise to be memorable for the amount of chatter the subject is generating.

–The DNR continued efforts to slow the spread of CWD in Hampshire County in 2010.   Whether the effort is working is hard to measure.   Biologists say there is nothing to compare the spread to, since there’s no other area where CWD has been identified and allowed to run unchecked.   Despite the best efforts, positive cases of CWD continue to be noticed, slowly trickling out of the original containment zone. 

–The bear population of West Virginia continues to grow exponentially.  Biologist on WV Outdoors estimated in November the number of black bears is well over 10,000 in West Virginia today.  Three decades ago, the number of black bears was below 500 and most were confined to the state’s highest and most remote mountain areas.  Today black bears have been identified in all 55-West Virginia counties.  The growing number of bears also lent itself to expanded bear hunting opportunities, including coinciding bear seasons with the buck season in 10 West Virginia counties.

–The 2010 spring gobbler season yielded 10,006 birds.  The total was up two-percent from the 2009 season.  Biologists say the turkey population remains stable despite lower brood counts in recent years.

–As mentioned above, mast production for 2010 was off the charts.  The DNR says nearly all species of mast annually observed were not only exponentially up from the 2009 season—the worst ever recorded—but were above the all time averages over the last 40-years.   Year 2010 was among the best, if not THE best mast year in state history.

–Two state fish records were broken in 2010.   James Brooks of Summers County caught a massive striper at Bluestone Lake on September 3rd.   The fish weighed 45.70 pounds and measured 47.16”.  Both smashed the existing records for weight and length. 

Angler Craig Hollandsworth of Cowen, WV was on vacation at Summersville Lake May 9th and caught the new state length record yellow perch at 15.44 inches.    The fish weighed 1.20lbs and fell short of the existing weight record.

–During the month of June, anglers received a scare when scores of crappie started floating up dead at Stonewall Jackson Lake.   Biologists were quickly on the case and testing through federal fisheries labs determined the problem was Columnaris infection.  Columnaris is commonly found in water and generally poses no problems.  However, under the right set of environmental circumstances, the infection can spread rapidly through schools of fish and cause massive fish kills.   As quickly as the fish were dying, the infection stopped.   Biologists surmise the conditions were aligned to cause the problem and expect no lasting effects.

–The DNR proposed creating a new catch-and-release section on the popular Shaver’s Fork trout stream in Randolph County.  The area encompasses one mile in the area of the Stuart Recreation Area. 

–There was news in the area of wildlife law enforcement in West Virginia during 2010.  One significant change was the name of those charged with enforcing the laws.   The long held term Conservation Officer was dropped in favor of the term Natural Resources Police Officers.  The change was aimed at eliminating confusion about the law enforcement powers of those in the brown uniforms.

–Those officers had a busy year with several notable investigations.   In April, the DNR announced the successful prosecution of five people, three adults and two juveniles, in what was termed a “thrill kill” investigation in Braxton County.   The individuals were charged with spotlighting, poaching, and other various game law violations after officers spent months tracking down numerous dead deer shot with a .410 slug and left dead in various fields in the Braxton County area. 

–Officers in Preston County also conducted the first investigation and conviction using the new state law tying the fines and replacement costs for a deer poached to the size of the deer’s antlers.    The 16” spread on the antlers of the poached buck resulted in a total fine and court cost for the Preston County man and Tucker County juvenile of $2.414.  The new law bases the fine on the widest spread of the antlers and significantly increases the fine when trophy bucks are involved. The aim was to deter the illegal killing of trophy sized bucks. 


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