ELKINS, W.Va. — There is no time in West Virginia like the opening week of the buck season. Coal mines close, construction jobs come to a halt, factories run on a skeleton crew, and in most cases schools close for the week to accommodate a high number of West Virginians who take vacation days in pursuit of a buck.
The most recent data from 2020 showed West Virginia with 228,000 licensed hunters. However, when coupled with landowners who are not required to have a license and youth under age 14 who are also not required to be licensed, the number of hunters in West Virginia on the opening day is estimated to be just above 300,000.
Hunting represents a $550 Million dollar economic impact on West Virginia.
Some hard core woodsmen have been pursuing whitetails in the Mountain State for weeks during the archery hunting season. Others are much more casual participants and will only hunt the first couple of days of the season and be done. Either way, the opening day is a major event in the Mountain State.
“It’s always weather dependent. If we get some really nice, calm and cool days I would expect we would have a pretty decent harvest,” said Brett Skelley, Deer Project Leader with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
Skelley added historically, the success on the first three days of the season is the story of the success of the buck season which actually runs for two weeks.
“Those first two or three days if your harvest is up or down in those days, that’s where the majority of the harvest takes place for the entire season,” he said.
The buck harvest in recent years has been fairly stable. During the last season the kill was up by about 10 to 12 percent, but Skelley said in the last five to ten years there hasn’t been a lot of fluctuation either way.
“I wouldn’t expect anything all that different from last year. The harvest last year was up 10 or 12 percent and those first few days were really calm and cold, but really nice days to be afield,” he explained.
The weather doesn’t impact deer behavior much, but it has a great deal of impact on hunters, particularly those who lose interest if conditions get cold, wet, and uncomfortable. This year’s mast was spotty as well, which means deer will be moving more to find food sources and may put themselves into a more vulnerable position. Although those first couple of days are more impacted by the high number of humans wandering the landscape than food disbursement.
“If you’ve got a decent number of hunters afield, some may be up walking round and bumping deer, but really the more time spent afield the better chance you’re going to have,” said Skelley.
DNR teams will be in the field Monday and Tuesday of the season collecting biological data from deer in Barbour, Jackson, Mason, and Upshur Counties. Hunters who kill a buck or doe in those counties on November 20 and 21 are required to take it to one of the collection points to allow samples to be pulled from the animal.
The following is a list of those biological collection points:
Junior Fire Department: 331 Row Ave., Belington, WV 26250
Longview One Stop: 6861 Buckhannon Rd., Volga, WV 26238
Nestorville Community Church: 406 Robinson Rd., Philippi, WV 26416 (Directly across from Nestorville Service Station)
Mattchew’s Bar and Grill: 20305 Barbour Co. Hwy., Philippi, WV 26416
Barbour County Fairgrounds: 227 Fairgrounds Way, Belington, WV 26250
Kenna Exxon: WV-34 Kenna, WV 25248
C-Mart: 425 North Church St. Ripley, WV 25271
Turkey Fork Grocery: 15 Co. Rd. 7 and Turkey Fork Rd., Sandyville, WV 25275
C-Mart: 8069 Ripley Rd., Cottageville, WV 25239
Old and New Sports: 813 Washington St., Ravenswood, WV 26164
Sandhill Foodmart: 4107 Sandhill Rd., Point Pleasant, WV 25550
New Haven Marathon: 605 5th St., New Haven, WV 25265
Leon General, LLC: 27523 Charleston Rd., Leon, WV 25123
Jerry’s Run Food Mart: 30575 Huntington Rd., Apple Grove, WV 25502
Dean’s Variety Mart: 66 Mount Nebo Rd., Buckhannon, WV 26201
Tractor Supply Co.: 120 Garden Fresh Plaza Dr., Buckhannon, WV 26201
WVDNR District 3 Office: 163 Wildlife Rd., French Creek, WV 26218
Yet again the DNR has also created an antlerless hunting season which coincides with the buck season in a large number of counties. Hunters will need a Class N antlerless hunting stamp to participate, but if they have one, they’ll be able to kill a buck or a doe. Skelley said removing those does from the population in some counties is a very big deal.
“There are some counties where we have a hard time meeting our antlerless kills. In certain counties we need more people to take advantage of those,” he explained.
The buck season runs through December 2nd in 51 counties of the state.