By Bob Fala
September 2 marks the annual kickoff to the West Virginia fall hunting venue. And just like clockwork, it’s the regular dove and early goose seasons that get the ball rolling that very Monday. Right on their heels is the youth squirrel hunt the following Saturday, September 7. The general squirrel season opens a week later on September 14. The squirrel seasons arrives quite a bit earlier than in the past. Many folks still have that long-standing first Saturday of October emblazoned in the back of their minds. But you read that right so don’t get left out on the action!
Here’s some skinny on the basics for these early seasons. For starters make sure you have a hunting license and a copy of the regulations. Regulations are available on-line or by visiting a hunting license agent. For seniors that have reached the age of 65 on or after January 1, 2012 be advised that you must now pick up the new one-time (lifetime) senior license. That is, unless you were already the holder of one or otherwise exempt.
Since both doves and geese are migratory game birds covered by the fed, shotguns must be plugged to a maximum three shot capacity, one in the chamber plus two in the magazine or tube. The free Harvest Information Program (HIP) card is also required. Per DNR, the HIP card is available at any of their offices and all license agents. Hunters harvesting any banded migratory bird should report their information by calling 1-800-327-2263 or providing it online at www.reportband.gov
The daily limit on doves is 15 with the September 2 (first day) action not to commence until noon with normal hours resuming thereafter. The first split of dove season closes Oct. 5. Neither a migratory bird hunting (duck) stamp nor non-toxic shot is required for doves. However, both are required for geese. The early goose season kicks off at one-half hour before sunrise Monday, September 2 through Sept. 14 with a daily bag limit of five. Geese have reached nuisance proportions in many locales and hunters are encouraged to participate.
The earlier statewide squirrel season opening of September 14 “should provide hunters more time to pursue the state’s most popular small game species,” according to DNR Wildlife Chief, Curtis Taylor. He adds that, “Mild weather conditions in September and longer days offer a great opportunity to take a youngster hunting.”
And that’s not to mention the special squirrel hunt or “youth” of September 7 reserved just for them. This youth day is available to youngsters under the age of 15 provided that they are accompanied by a licensed adult, who may not carry a gun or bow. Squirrel numbers should be decent per last year’s similar nut mast crop, which directly affects their population. Nevertheless, the state squirrel population remains both strong and underutilized at the same time. The traditional six per day bag limit on squirrels remains unchanged.
Even if you don’t pursue these early bird species, hunters should be getting their gear organized and hitting the archery and/or rifle ranges to practice with and check on the accuracy of their implements. The ever popular archery deer and bear seasons are just around the bend at September 28, also quite a bit earlier from the long standing mid-October versions.
It’s beginning to look a lot like hunting season…