ROANOKE, W.Va. – Members of the West Virginia Natural Resources Commission rejected three controversial proposals during Sunday’s meeting at Stonewall Resort in Lewis County.
The commission rejected a proposal which would have done away with bear hunting with dogs west of Route 92 and Route 7 in Preston County. The West Virginia Bear Hunters Association opposed the regulation.
Colin Carpenter, Bear Project Leader for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources told commissioners the proposal was born out of complaints about bear hunters and hounds crossing private property in the area. However, he added Preston County is one of the counties where bear population control is an issue.
“We average 21 bear complaints a year in Preston County in the last 5 years—13 were for bear damage. The bulk of bear damage complaints in the county come from corn destruction in the eastern part of the county,” Carpenter said.
Commissioner Greg Burnett commented he worried the change could set a dangerous precedent. Commissioner Jeff Bowers was concerned about the bear damage, but also wanted to convey the Commission’s concern for landowners. The measure failed on a voice vote.
Commissioners amended the proposal and allowed for bear hunting with dogs throughout Preston County for the 2020 bear hunting season.
A second controversial topic which failed Sunday dealt with a change to youth hunting in Logan, Mingo, McDowell, and Wyoming Counties. The proposal would have allowed those age 14 and under to use a crossbow during the hunting season. Crossbows presently are allowed only for physically challenged hunters with a Class Y permit in the four bow-hunting only counties.
“I’ve gotten a lot of push back from the public on this,” DNR Director Steve McDaniel told the Commission. “People don’t have a problem with an antlerless season—but they do not want to create a crossbow season—even for children.”
Larry Lawson, Past President of the West Virginia Bowhunters Association spoke firmly against the proposal in his submitted public comments to the commission.
Commissioner Kenny Wilson questioned whether the change was even allowed since the Class Y permits which are the only allowable cross bow hunting in the southern counties was originally put into state code. Wildlife Chief Paul Johansen suggested commissioners defeat the measure and it could be reevaluated for 2021.
Ultimately, the measure failed.
The third proposed change to the game laws which proved controversial, and also failed, was a proposal to allow year-round coyote hunting with an artificial light. The proposal included a requirement that September 1 through December 31, night hunting would be allowed only on private land and require a hunter to receive landowner permission and notify DNR Law Enforcement Section prior to hunting.
Commissioners raised a myriad of concerns about the potential for problems.
“I just see a lot of vagueness here,” said Commissioner Bowers.
“This is a political issue. People don’t like coyotes, they notify legislators and they are responsive to constituents. Is this going to have a significant biological impact? No, probably very limited,” said Johansen
Commissioners worried about the effort to inform law enforcement and conveying the information to other law enforcement agencies and county 9-1-1 operators.
“We probably need to come up with a system to notify 911 the activity is happening. If a lot of people decided to do it, it could become a problem,” said Colonel Jerry Jenkins head of the Natural Resources Police.
The biggest concern was the potential for poaching during deer season and making the job for Natural Resources Police Officers even more difficult.
“There are limitations for night hunting because of law enforcement concerns. We’re talking about moving to a part of the year that could be problematic,” said Johansen.
The measure failed for a lack of a motion.
Other notes from Sunday’s meeting:
Turkey hunters will get eight additional hunting days at the end of the 2021 season. The commission approved adding a 5th week and ending the season on Sunday. Commissioner Bowers attempted to amend the measure to allow daylong hunting during week five. His amendment was defeated on a 5-2 roll call vote. Bowers and Commissioner Burnett both favored the change. Biologists cautioned the commission to tread carefully on extending any part of the turkey season to a daylong hunt.
A youth bear season for hunters ages 8 to less than 18 was approved. The two day season will coincide with the youth antlerless season
The buck firearms and antlerless deer seasons were approved to be extended to end on second Sunday after Thanksgiving. Commissioners approved a similar extension for the fall turkey season.
Commissioners heard a detailed presentation from Rob Southwick of Southwick Associates. He laid out the results of a comprehensive survey of sportsmen in West Virginia on various considerations for a restructuring of hunting and fishing license in the state. Commissioners and DNR staff adamantly stressed there is currently no consideration being given to a license increase and the study was to help with future modifications.
Acting State Parks Chief Brad Reed announced plans for controlled deer hunts on six State Parks in West Virginia. The hunts will be archery and muzzleloader hunts at Beech Fork, Canaan Valley, Cacapon, North Bend, Pipestem, and Twin Falls State Parks. Since Twin Falls is in Wyoming County, an archery hunting only county, it would not include muzzleloaders and only Class Y license holders would be allowed to hunt in the Twin Falls hunt with a crossbow.
McDaniel told the meeting he had received overwhelming response from the public comments about the proposal to lower the buck limit in West Virginia. He said to allow for all comments to be considered, the controversial measure was pulled from the agenda of Sunday’s meeting and the comment period extended to July 24th. McDaniel told the meeting the measure will be up for a vote at the August 2nd meeting which will be held at Chief Logan State Park.