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If you haven't taken the time to go to one of the sectional meetings hosted by the WVDNR, now is your chance. The meetings will take place at a dozen locations spread all around the state and are intended to get input from sportsmen from all over the state on the proposed regulation changes for the upcoming season.

These meetings are also a great place for hunters to voice their opinions and propose their own suggestions for rule and regulation changes. Besides that, it is an excellent place to get to know the names and faces of the agency that watch after the game we all enjoy pursuing.

On Monday March 11, 2019, meetings will be held in Beckley, Fairmont, Harrisville, Martinsburg, Milton and Summersville. Tuesday March 12, 2019, meetings will be in Buckhannon, Glen Dale, Logan, Moorfield, Parkersburg and Princeton. No matter where you are in the state, there should be a meeting within a short driving distance. The meetings start at 6pm, so even the working man or woman has a chance to attend.

Even if you can't attend the meetings the WVDNR has prepared a questionnaire detailing the proposed changes to the 2019 hunting regulations and the 2020 fishing regulations spelled out. Hunters and fishermen alike are urged to fill out one of the surveys and mail them in so that every sportsman's voice is heard.

The responses received will help the WVDNR Commission decide which regulations need to pass and which regulations will need to be tabled, or even tossed. Most of the proposed regulation changes are usually minor and tend to have very little effect other than the tweaking of the existing bag limits and locations. Occasionally, more significant regulations are proposed, and every sportsman's input is crucial.

Once again, this year the topic of lowering the buck harvest limit from 3 antlered bucks to 2 is being discussed and it has made it into the questionnaire to gauge the hunting public's opinion. For or against this proposed change, the sectional meeting near you is a good place to have your voice heard.

One of the more favorable proposals in this year's list is to extend the Spring Gobbler and Squirrel Hunting Youth season to two days. The plan is to include the Saturday and Sunday in the youth only hunt. This will double the time those young hunters have to fill their tags before the pressures of the full season take effect.

Another notable proposal is the establishment of the Little Kanawha Wildlife Area in Wirt and Calhoun counties as an older-age deer management area. If this proposal passes, there will be antler restrictions in place on the WMA to allow the bucks to get a little older. This addition will also account for an older age management area in every district of the state.

There are some noteworthy proposals on the fishing side of the aisle as well. The proposed fishing regulations won't take effect until the 2020 regulation season, but these changes must be presented now so everyone has a chance to give input on them.

There are proposed changes to the size and creel limits for walleye, sauger and musky in various streams all around the state to better protect and grow the populations of these species. There are even some proposed changes for the Striped, White and Hybrid bass creel limit on Bluestone, Beech Fork and R.D. Bailey lakes to help enhance these fisheries.

The most wide-reaching regulation change on the fishing side is centered around the species of fish known as darters. They get the name from the mode in which they tend to swim around. The tiny fish tend to dart from rock to rock and hide. It is proposed that all darter species be protected making the possession of them illegal.

Darters aren't commonly used as bait, but they are caught on occasion while gathering bait. If the proposed change passes, any darters caught will have to be immediately released into its native waters. This shouldn't be much of a bitter pill to swallow for anglers. I, for one, have never found much use for a darter as a bait fish. The fathead minnow or creek chub is always a better choice.

Pretty much all other fishing regulations will remain the same or very similar. Granted, I have boiled down the information here, but if you are interested, the questionnaire is available at www.wvdnr.gov and you can print out a copy to have ready for the sectional meeting. There will also be plenty of copies on hand if you want to take one home to review.

The deadline for comments is April 5, 2019 and every sportsman should put in their 2 cents. If you aren't busy, make your way to the sectional meeting nearest you. Agree or disagree with the proposals, at least you have the chance to voice your opinion.

Roger Wolfe is an avid outdoorsman and has spent most of his life hunting and fishing and writes a weekly outdoors column for HD Media. He is a resident of Chapmanville and can be reached via email at wolfeii@hotmail.com.

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