Hunters venturing out to bag the big one next week may win prizes if they have the heaviest bear checked in at Middle Mountain Archery. The store will have a contest each day of the special early gun black bear season that begins Monday.
"We will be offering a prize for the heaviest bear checked in," store owner Matt Higgins said. "We will be giving away various prizes."
The special early gun season is open to select counties in West Virginia. According to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources 2008-2009 Hunting and Trapping Regulations, two bear may be taken during the bear firearms season, Monday through Sept. 27. Hunters may only take two bear annually in the normal archery season and the special firearms season.
The following counties will have the special firearms season: Barbour, east of Route 92; Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker and Webster.
"This is a big deal," Higgins said. "This is the first early bear season we have had in 16 to 18 years. Most of the big bears go into hibernation before the regular season."
Higgins said the biggest bear he has ever checked in weighed 430 pounds. It was brought in last season. He said he also knew of a 647- pound bear taken in Davis last year.
"We have got just as good bear hunting as anywhere right now," Higgins said. "Especially in Tucker, Pocahontas, Pendleton and Randolph County."
Higgins expects to see bears coming in exceeding 400 pounds this year. According to the WVDNR Web site, West Virginia bear hunters harvested a record 1,807 bears during the combined 2007 archery and firearms season. Gun hunters killed 1,071 bears, which is the second highest gun harvest on record. The top five gun counties were Randolph, 141; Pocahontas, 123; Pendleton, 115; Greenbrier, 85; and Webster, 78.