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Commission approves modified bear hunting regulations

Pressure by the West Virginia Bear Hunters Association prompted changes to the 2013 bear hunting season during Sunday’s Natural Resources Commission meeting at Morgantown’s Lakeview Resort.

The DNR proposed an early bear season for September 21-25 in the traditional mountain counties.   Commissioners however, listened to several members of the bear hunting community who sought a Saturday opening date and a six-day season in the those counties.

“If we start on a Monday, there’s a limited amount of time for guys who have vacation built up,” said Bear Hunters Association President Eric Beck. “If we start on a weekend, more people get the opportunity to go out and hunt.”

The early season will now be September 21-27 and will allow hunters to chase with dogs in the following counties: Barbour (E. of Rt. 92), Braxton (E. of I-79), Clay (S. of Elk River), Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Mineral (W. of New Creek), Monroe (E. of Rt. 219), Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, Upshur (E. of Rt. 20), Webster.   

As an added bonus, since Clay County is open to Sunday hunting, hunters would have a 7th day in the early bear season–provided they are hunting on private property.  Sunday hunting is allowed in 14 counties on private land.

Beck said the longer early season with dogs will be the best way to tackle the problem bears damaging crops in the mountain counties. 

The Commission approved the normal early five day bear hunting season for southern West Virginia.   Hunters will be able to hunt bear with or without dogs in Kanawha, Boone, Fayette, Raleigh, Logan, Wyoming, Mingo, and McDowell Counties from October 7-11.   The later dates are split from the mountain counties to allow hunters who normally hunt in the mountains to come to the southern coalfields to chase bear.

The DNR’s concurrent season for bear hunting during the deer firearms season won approval, over the objections of the Bear Hunters Association.   The commission made one change to limit the hunt to private land only in the mountain counties and hunters would have to be drawn for a permit unless they are a landowner.  Non-landowners would apply the same way applications are made for antlerless deer hunting permits in counties where they are limited.  

The concurrent buck/bear season in southern West Virginia will not require a special permit and will be open to all licensed hunters.    Additionally, the concurrent buck/bear hunting will be open in Preston, Monongalia, Berkeley, Hampshire, Jefferson, and Morgan Counties. Hunters could hunt bear on public or private land without a special permit in those counties.  

“We don’t like it in buck season because you can’t control how people bait animals in,” said Beck. “But you can’t get everything you want.  We were satisfied with what we got.”

The traditional bear season opens December 9th statewide and runs through December 31st.   There were no modifications to the rules in place for the 2012 bear season.

Most changes approved to the 2013 deer hunting regulations involve liberalizing antlerless season in many counties to allow a bigger harvest of does.  

The commission approved moving Monroe County into the list of counties where hunters would be required to kill a doe before they could take a second buck in both archery and gun season.   Hunters who hunt antlerless deer will want to check the new regulations for the number of does they can kill this fall.  Chances are the bag limit has increased from 2012. 

2013 will be the first year in history in which every county with a gun season will also have some form of antlerless deer hunting.

The fall regulations should be available at sporting goods counters across the state and on the DNR website very soon.

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