Natural Resources Committee members voted unanimously at their May 5 meeting to approve this year's slate of hunts. The three-day events will follow a format similar to the one used last year.
Hunters who wish to participate will be required to pay $10 to register in a lottery, from which limited numbers of hunters will be issued permits. The number of available permits varies from park to park.
Participating parks include Beech Fork in Wayne County, Canaan Valley in Tucker County, Cacapon in Morgan County, North Bend in Ritchie County, Pipestem in Summers County, and Twin Falls in Wyoming County.
Sam England, the state's parks chief, said the hunts have one overriding goal: to bring deer populations under control.
"Our park superintendents work with the Wildlife Section's district biologists to decide which parks are going to have hunts," he said. "The process involves a little bit of science and a little bit of art. We want to maximize success for hunters, but at the same time we don't want to have hunts in parks where there is no biological need for them."
England said a lack of biological need has caused two parks that hosted hunts last year to be dropped from this year's schedule.
"At Blennerhassett Island and at Stonewall Jackson, there's no need for us to conduct hunts because last year's hunts brought the deer population down to acceptable levels," he explained. "That points to how successful last year's hunts were."
Last year marked the first year in which hunters were allowed to use muzzleloading firearms as well as bows and crossbows. England said parks officials try to time the muzzleloader hunts so they occur during the peak of the "rut," or whitetail mating season, when deer become preoccupied with sex and are less wary toward hunters.
"The muzzleloader hunts were very well received last year," he continued. "So we want hunters to be able to enjoy that same component this year."
Most of the hunts' three-day formats are designed to allow hunters to kill up to two deer. England said 210 of the 270 available permits will allow a hunter to stay and take a second whitetail if they so desire. None of the deer killed during state-park hunts will count toward hunters' season bag limits.
"This year, there are more hunts in which hunters must take an antlerless deer before they're allowed to take a buck," England said. "When we gave out either-sex permits, we found that hunters were more likely to come and spend their entire three days hunting for a trophy buck.
"The overall mission of these hunts is to reduce deer populations, and the best way to do that is to harvest females. We don't mind that hunters want to take bucks, but we want them to harvest does first. The deer populations are healthy enough to sustain taking more than one deer."
Dates and rules for the hunts vary from park to park:
Beech Fork: Archery or muzzleloader hunts, Nov. 4-6 and Nov. 11-13. Fifteen permits will be available for each hunt. In both hunts, hunters must take an antlerless deer first and may take one deer of either sex thereafter.
Canaan Valley: Archery-only hunt Oct. 28-30, 15 permits available, hunters may take one deer of either sex. Archery or muzzleloader hunt, Nov. 4-6, 15 permits available, hunters may take one antlerless deer, three buck tags drawn for entire hunt.
Cacapon: Archery-only hunt Nov. 4-6, 30 permits available, hunters must take an antlerless deer first and may take one deer of either sex thererafter. Archery or muzzleloader hunt, Nov. 11-13, 30 permits available, muzzleloader hunters will be allowed to take two antlerless deer, drawings for five buck tags per day.
North Bend: Archery-only hunt, Oct. 28-30, 30 permits available, hunters must take an antlerless deer first and may take one deer of either sex thereafter. Archery or muzzleloader hunt, Nov. 4-6, 30 permits available, hunters must take an antlerless deer first and may take one deer of either sex thereafter.
Pipestem: Archery-only hunt Oct. 28-30, 30 permits available, hunters must take an antlerless deer first and may take one deer of either sex thereafter. Archery or muzzleloader hunt Nov. 4-6, 30 permits available, muzzleloader hunters will be allowed to take two antlerless deer, drawings for five buck tags per day.
Twin Falls: Archery-only hunt, Nov. 4-6, 30 permits available. Hunters may take one deer of either sex. Hunting will be limited to upright bows only.
Last year, a total of 1,840 hunters applied to participate in state-park hunts. England said charging a permit application fee helped ensure a good turnout.
"The show-up rate significantly increased, close to 80 percent," he said. "Before we started charging the application fee, the show-up rate was about two-thirds, so the fee helped boost it considerably."
The hunters could begin applying for permits sometime around midsummer, when applications for all of the state's limited-permit hunts become available on the state's electronic licensing website, www.wvhunt.com.