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Reduction in bear hunting days highlights 2022 big game proposals

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Biologists with the wildlife section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources made their presentation to members of the Natural Resources Commission Sunday for the 2022-23 bag limits and hunting season dates.

The proposals will be presented to Sportsmen next month at the March sectional meetings and sportsmen who attend will be able to fill out questionnaires to gauge public opinion on the proposals.

Whitetail deer hunting regulations are largely unchanged from 2021. The one change to the antlerless hunting proposals was in Clay County. The southern portion of the county was closed in 2021, but for the 2022 season, the agency proposed allowing 200 limited antlerless permits in that area. The northern part of Clay County would have a bag limit of one antlerless deer for the season.

The biggest changes proposed for hunting regulations were the dates and bag limits for bear hunting in West Virginia.

Barbour (east of route 92), Braxton (east of I-79), Clay (south of Elk River), Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Mineral (west of New Creek), Monroe (east of route 219), Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, Upshur (east of route 20), Webster are proposed for a more conservative season without hounds. Under the proposed changes those counties or parts of counties would be removed from the concurrently deer/bear hunting season October 20-23 and from the buck firearms season from November 21 through December 4th.

The DNR’s Bear project also proposed more conservative seasons and bag limits in counties with dog hunting. They included. The early bear seasons with or without dogs have been removed for the mountain counties  (with the exception of Nicholas). In addition, the order of the early bear seasons with or without dogs have been changed and total number of days have been reduced.

Boone, Fayette, Nicholas, Kanawha and Raleigh: October 1 – October 7. This is 10 fewer hunting days than in 2021 for Boone, Fayette, Kanawha and Raleigh. The season in these counties was shortened due to an expected increase in hunting pressure as a result of early season closure in the mountain counties. The bear population in Nicholas has not declined to the point that would warrant removing the liberal season structure. Nicholas was included in this group of counties for the early hunting season in 2002 and 2003.

Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming: September 3 – September 11. This will result in 5 fewer days of firearms bear hunting. The season in these counties was shortened due to an expected increase in hunting pressure as a result of early season closure in the mountain counties.

Barbour (east of route 92), Braxton (east of I-79), Clay (south of Elk River), Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Mineral (west of New Creek), Monroe (east of route 219), Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, Upshur (east of route 20) and Webster: The early bear seasons have been removed in these counties. This results in 10 fewer days of
hunting in 2022.

Preston: The bag limit in this county has been reduced from 2 to 1.

“Obviously the major change for bear season is those mountain counties would be removed from the early season. We are extremely happy with the kill in those counties. We were attempting to bring those numbers down slowly and our population reconstruction has shown those counties are now in a downturn and are finally reaching where we expected,” said Chris Ryan, Supervisor of Game Management Services for the Division of Natural Resources during his presentation to the Commission.

Commissioner Jeff Bowers raised concerns that some hunters may have already made plans for those seasons and purchased license. However, Ryan noted, none of the seasons are set until the commission’s vote in April.

The rest of the proposals for 2022’s big game seasons mirror those of 2021. The recommendations to the Commission will be on a questionnaire for the public during the March sectional meetings. The Commission will vote on the proposals and could make adjustments to them during their next meeting in May.





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