By Bob Fala
If you’re hankering for some of that first general gun hunting venison of the season, here’s your chance. The earliest split of antlerless only gun deer hunting is slated for Thursday-Saturday (Oct. 24 -26) over a broad swath of all or parts of 45 of the Mountain State’s 55 counties. But be advised that this option is available for private lands only with the proper Class N antlerless deer license(s).
This means that the vast national forests and wildlife refuges as well as state wildlife management areas are not open for this early deer hunt. With that qualifier in mind, it may be best to list the remaining ten West Virginia counties or parts thereof where the option is also not available. This includes the bow-hunting only local four counties of Logan, Mingo, Wyoming and McDowell. As well, portions of Clay, Fayette, Kanawha, Nicholas, Raleigh and Wayne are also closed.
Folks should review the regulations available in print or on-line at www.wvdnr.gov for those specific county parts maps and other important details. Though the vast majority of the open counties or parts thereof are available on an unlimited over-the-counter Class N antlerless license basis, a group of ten counties or parts thereof required a prior application for a limited number of eligibility permits.
Locally, all of Boone County is within this limited prior application group. The others include all or parts of: Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Mercer, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Raleigh and Webster. Successful applicants would already have been notified by U. S. Mail as to their eligibility for this group of counties.
By the way, an antlerless deer is any deer having no antlers or having no antler greater than three-inches long above the hairline. The management concepts for the earlier antlerless gun deer season are fairly straightforward. They direct hunters to where they are needed the most, private lands. Deer over- population is rarely a problem on public lands where adequate hunting pressure is the norm.
For another, a sooner rather than later prescribed antlerless kill is more management savvy in view of the overall energy budget of the herd. That is, deer removed now, say as opposed to later in December are less of a drain on the limited autumn food supply. Likewise, breeding energy of the antlered buck segment for the mid-November mating season is also conserved.
The unseasonably warm weather seems to put the skids on the relatively new earlier hunting opportunities, including this one. A crisp cold weather snap could get the deer moving out of their sedentary summer patterns and stir the fervor of the hunter to boot. What’s more, the proper care and cooling of the venison without the disturbance of flies and the risk of spoilage are even more important for these earlier than the past “traditional” period hunts.
Whether these earlier October hunts make for a new tradition of their own making still yet remains to be seen. In the meantime, be safe, enjoy and merely follow the rules. The option is entirely yours. Just don’t miss out for not knowing about it.