Buck limit vote won’t come until 2023


CAIRO,W.Va. – The long standing question over whether West Virginia’s limit on bucks will be lowered from three to two will have to wait a while longer.  Members of the state’s Natural Resources Commission considered a motion during Sunday’s quarterly meeting to put the proposal on an upcoming agenda.

Commissioner Greg Burnette made the motion to put the item on the next meeting’s agenda in July.

“The buck limit issue is not going away. It’s been on sectional questionnaires multiple times.  It’s been on DNR internal surveys.  We’ve had one of the best national companies involved and we had an email campaign.  I do realize if we vote on it at this meeting, it won’t take effect until next year,” he said in making the motion to add it to the next meeting agenda.

His motion was quickly called into question by Commissioner B.K. Chambers who suggested taking such a vote without following proper public notification and the Sportsman’s Sectional meetings would be in violation of Chapter 20.

Commissioner Jeff Bowers offered an amendment to the motion to put the matter on the agenda for the first Commission meeting of 2023.

“Since it will not go into effect until next year anyway, let’s put it on the agenda for the first meeting next year.  We’re not losing anything, it would still be on the next season. That way we could get it out on a questionnaire for the sectional meetings and vote on it and avoid any of those questions.”  Bowers said.

The only apparent wrinkle for the Bowers’ amendment  would be the sale of license after the first of the year for 2023.   Assistant Chief for Game Management Steve Rauch along with Chief of Wildlife Paul Johansen both suggested hunters might purchase their third buck stamp before the vote and then not be allowed to take a third buck if the change was made.   Johansen also pointed out to the Commission license fees are non-refundable.

“If the commission so desires put it on sectional questionnaire, then it would be my recommendation you not do it during the 2023 season, but defer that to 2024. Then you avoid any problems with hunters thinking they would have the chance at three bucks and bought the stamps,” Johansen told the Commissioners.

Burnette and Commissioner Tom Dotson both expressed frustration at the idea of waiting another two years before the change could be implemented.

Bowers’ amendment to put it on the agenda for the first meeting of 2023 was unanimously approved and Burnette’s motion was also approved on a voice vote.

Commissioners received a report on the feedback on the proposed regulation changes, season dates, and bag limits during the March sectional meetings.   Most were largely approved by sportsmen and conservation organizations.   The big game hunting regulations and dates for this fall were approved as proposed.

Changes to the fish regulations will be up for a vote at the next Commission meeting in July.   DNR Hatchery Programs Manager Jim Hedrick addressed those proposed changes.  He asked the Commission to table three of the suggested changes.

Hedrick said the proposal to create a catch and release section on a section of Upper Shavers Fork between Bowden and Bemis and on Dunloup Creek in Fayette County received a lot of attention from the public.

“We mostly had approval on those, but we had a lot of additional comments.  Both of these do involve private land and some of those folks were opposed. In Dunloup we would end stocking and just put in fingerlings.  We had a lot of comments where folks didn’t like that. We’d like to table those and look for something more amenable, “Hedrick said.

On another set of changes, Hedrick asked for a similar delay in the adjustment which would change a catch and release section of the Smoke Hole Section of the South Branch to Delayed Harvest regulations.

“A lot of anglers thought the date was too early. We’d like to follow up and do some more research.  We’d like to table that conversation from catch and release to Delayed Harvest as well to do more research and get more buy in,” he said.

Two questions put to the public by the Natural Resources Commission involved the Cranberry River.   One of the questions was to gauge public opinion about moving the current catch and release section further downstream.  The other question sought public opinion on lifting the regulation altogether, but replacing it with a two fish limit to be consumed in the area and not removed.   The questions come from those who have asked about being allowed to keep and eat fish wile camped in the area.

Commissioner Dotson asked if it would be detrimental to the fish to move the catch and release section downstream, since the water there is warmer.

“Biologically the location of the catch and release is exactly where it should be.  Sociologically is obviously a different question,” Hedrick said.

Johansen promised the agency would do more research and work on recommendations about what to do with the question for the next commission meeting.

The meeting is slated for July 31 at Summersville.

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