For all practical purposes this year's hunting season will be like last year's, but there has been some changes that all sportsmen and women need to be aware of.
The fall turkey season has been expanded this year to include 13 additional counties opening Oct. 23 through Oct. 30. Twelve counties open Oct. 23 through Nov. 6, and 14 counties open Oct. 23 through Nov. 20. Grant, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, Tucker, and Webster will be open from Oct. 23 to Nov. 20. Monongalia, Preston, and Upshur will be open Oct. 23 to Nov. 6. Harrison, Lewis, Marion, and Taylor will be open to fall turkey hunting Oct. 23 to Oct. 30.
One and only one turkey of either sex can be taken during this season with either a gun or bow. This clearly indicates that the turkey population is increasing through the state. Turkey hunters need to remember that it is unlawful to hunt turkeys with the use of bait and with electronic calls.
I have only taken one wild turkey in all my years of hunting. It was in Randolph County back in the 1980s. I was squirrel hunting out Files Creek with a .22 rifle, and I happened to come upon a turkey that was legal game. When I told this story to a local conservation officer who is now retired, he just said, "You are an opportunist."
The black bear hunting season has been expanded this year with 10 counties opening Sept. 27 to Sept. 29. Nine counties open Sept. 27 to Oct. 2. Ten counties open Nov. 22 to Dec. 4. All 55 counties open Dec. 6 to Dec. 31. The bag limit is one bear per day with a season limit of two, provided that at least one bear comes from Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, or Raleigh counties. There will also be a special controlled bear hunt on Nathaniel Mountain and Short Mountain Wildlife Management Areas. Hunters who use dogs must apply for a permit between Oct. 1-31 at the District 2 DNR office in Romney.
Most sportsmen agree that the bear population has made big increases statewide. I have never been a bear hunting enthusiast and have only been bear hunting once in my life. I have been reading the state hunting regulations since 1954, and I never thought we would ever have a hunting season when one could take more than one bear per calendar year. The local counties that will be open to bear gun hunting from Sept. 27-29 will be Barbour east of state Route 92, Grant, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, Tucker, and Webster. Hunters may pursue bear with or without dogs. Upshur County will be open east of state Route 20 from Dec. 6-31 with or without dogs. West of state Route 20 in Upshur is without dogs.
Another change that is noteworthy is the participation age for the Youth Hunting season has been increased from less than 15 to less than 18 years of age. The licensing requirements remain in effect for ages 15-17 years of age.
Conservation Office of the Law Enforcement Section are now going to be called West Virginia Natural Resources Police. I just wish that West Virginia could have more officers throughout the state. I have often said "the way the terrain lays in this state it would take a military division of conservation officers to effectively enforce all the laws of fish and game we have in this state."