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Early Opening Day for Bow Hunters


Archery hunters are about to embark on what may be the longest bow hunting season in the state’s history.   The 2012 season will open on Saturday and run through the end of the year, with the exception of the three days during the opening week of gun season.

"The decision for the earlier opening date was really two fold," said DNR’s Scott Warner. "We wanted to provide additional recreational opportunities and our biggest concern was we didn’t want to biologically impact the deer population–and after looking at this we won’t.  In addition to the additional opportunities we’re hoping with two extra weeks in the season hunters will also decide to harvest antlerless deer because the season has been extended a little bit."

Hunter in ten West Virginia counties who hope to take a second buck with their bow (and with a gun) will have to kill an antlerless deer first.   The new regulation requiring the antlerless harvest ahead of the second buck is for hunters in Brooke, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Marshall, Mineral, Monongalia, Ohio, Tyler, and Wood.

"We’ve always hear a recommendation from serious sportsman that we have an ‘earn-a-buck’ type of program," said Warner. "This is not really an ‘earn-a-buck’ program, because you can still take a buck with your first tag."

The DNR’s mast survey is almost complete, but indicates the mast across the state will be decent.  It’s not nearly as robust as 2011, but there are pockets where acorns and other wildlife food hit well.   Those choosing to hunt in the earliest days of the season may have to key on those areas.

"I would focus most of my efforts in the first part of the season around food sources and on getting that doe tag out of the way," said Warner. "One the rut gets here, then adjust to corridors or travel ways as bucks are checking their scrape lines."

A year ago, West Virginia hunters had a banner year.  There was an abnormally large class of older aged bucks.  The numbers of two and a half year old bucks was boosted by a poor mast year in 2010 and harsh weather during the first days of the rifle season.  The situation allowed a lot of bucks to live to another age of maturity rather than be killed in their first year.   It’s unknown just how many carried over to a third year–or how many were spared last year and are now themselves two and a half with a nice rack.

"I don’t know overall if we’re going to see the percentage of larger bucks checked in," Warner said. "I don’t want to be too optimistic, I want to be a realist, but we just got finished with that spotlight survey and we’re catching some on game cameras.  There are some REALLY Nice bucks in West Virginia."

Additionally for archers, the bow season for bear also opens Saturday and is open in all 55 counties of West Virginia for hunters who buy the bear damage stamp.


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