Mountaineer Heritage season is a solid idea

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There are only so many days in the year. We’ve all occasionally wished we had extra days in the calendar to do extra stuff, but since we can’t just “invent time” there has to be some way to use what is available more creatively. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Commission have managed to do just that.

Next week, the inaugural Mountaineer Heritage season will be staged across West Virginia over the course of four days. This season is a radical departure for what has been a long held, unwritten rule in West Virginia game management which disallowed hunting seasons for big game past New Year’s Eve. The season also satisfies the requests a number of traditionalists have clamored to see for many years.

From January 10-13 you can kill deer, either sex, or bear in West Virginia. However, you’ll need to use a traditional muzzleloader or a traditional bow. Compound bows and crossbows or inline muzzleloaders and scopes are not allowed during the four day season. The fact that you can still kill a buck is also significant. Usually by this time, many hunters are already hunting for sheds. While it’s true some bucks may have already dropped their antlers–not all of them are bald and you could score a nice buck in this late (or early) season. The agency was careful to guard against overkill though, if you have already killed three bucks from the fall, you may hunt only an antlerless deer.

A lot of muzzleloading purists and bow hunting traditionalists have been clamoring for this kind of a season for many years. It’s been difficult to find the right way to implement it. There have been suggestions of a black powder season prior to buck season, but the idea has been met with a cool reception from biologists and the commission alike. The leftover days in December after buck season made it tough to strike the right balance.

The agency also had to contend with modern technology advancement versus those purists. Although created as a “primitive weapons” season many years ago, West Virginia’s muzzleloader season has become anything buck that.  The Kentucky rifle with a flint lock morphed into much more with the development of in-line black powder rifles and the allowance for telescopic sites. .This ain’t your granddaddy’s muzzleloader.  However, the Mountaineer Heritage season means your granddaddy and all of the West Virginia forefathers–native and non-native–would approve.

The decision to open a deer season after January 1 was a logical step. Time will tell if it will be popular, but in a DNR deer hunter survey during the buck season, 42 percent of those who responded indicated plans to take part. If that’s the case, the agency may have struck upon something with the potential to be very special to a dedicated group of specialized hunters in West Virginia.