Last week, I got a copy of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources 2010 Big Game Bulletin. The black bear, wild boar, white-tailed deer and wild turkey harvest numbers for 2010 are now official.
Last year had to be a banner year for the bear hunters. State nimrods took a record 2,392 black bears during the combined archery and firearms seasons. This is 15 percent above the old record of 2069 set in 2008.
Greenbrier was the leading county with a harvest of 240 bears, closely followed by Randolph with 234 bears. Rounding out the top five were: Pendleton at 207, Pocahontas at 185, and Webster at 173. This is the second time the bear kill has been above 2000.
The spring gobbler harvest for 2010 was 10,209. This is 4 percent higher than the kill of 2009 (9,787). Only 39 counties were open during the fall season. The kill was 1,126, down 6.7 percent from the 1,208 turkeys in 2009. The top five counties for the 2010 fall turkey season were Greenbrier at 92, Preston at 80, Monroe at 59, Randolph at 58, and Pocahontas at 47.
Hunters only killed 16 wild boar in 2010. This is down from 35 in 2009. Some of the reasons for this decline could be the poor mast production in 2009, along with habitat destruction. Surface mining and logging operations continue to decrease the oak forests that are favored by the boar. However, the good acorn crop in 2010 could reverse this decline. At the present time, wildlife biologists do not believe that hunting is a cause for this decline.
The total white-tailed deer harvest was 106,499 in 2010. This is down more than 31 percent from the 2009 harvest of 155,214, and 28 percent below the five-year average of 147,547. It is still the 26th largest total deer harvest on record. From 1945 to 2010, total deer harvest has been 5,472,196 deer. Approximately 50 percent (2,746,772) have been taken in the last 15 years.
The total harvest for the traditional bucks-only gun season was 43,461. This is also down about 31 percent from the 2009 harvest of 62,986. The total harvest for the antlerless deer season was 34,600, or about 36.5 percent less than the 2009 harvest of 54,514. The total bow harvest was 21,962. This is down about 23 percent from the harvest of 28,482 in 2009. The 2010 muzzleloader season harvest was 6,476, down about 30 percent from the 2009 harvest of 9,232.
In Randolph County, the total deer harvest from all the combined deer seasons was 3,806. This is down about 5 percent from the total of 4,012 in 2009.
Area hunters could find it interesting to know that 1,439 bucks were taken in the Monongahela National Forest in 2010. This compares to 1,608 in 2009. Bow hunters took 480 whitetails in 2010. This compares to 573 in 2009 in the MNF.
In Kumbrabow State Forest, 11 bucks were taken in 2010. This is down from 16 in 2009. Bow hunters took five deer in this state forest in 2010. This compares to six in 2009. In the Becky Creek Wildlife Management Area, 16 bucks were taken. This is up from two in 2009. Bow hunters took seven deer in this area in 2010. This is up from 2 in 2009. In the Huttonsville Wildlife Management Area, six bucks were taken compared to four in 2009. Bow hunters took four deer compared to one in 2009.
There has to be several reasons for these large declines in the deer harvests. Some are quick to put the blame on all the coyotes we now have in this state. I have had several people tell me that fewer people went hunting this year. A good friend of mine, who lives on Laurel Mountain Road, told me that he has not seen the number of vehicles going by his house like he has in past buck seasons. I know I did not see the number of out-of-state hunters like I usually do. The price of gasoline could easily have something to do with this.
The DNR will be reducing the number of antlerless permits this year. It will be interesting when hunting and trapping regulations come out this summer.
The 2010 Big Game Bulletin is available at the DNR Elkins Operations Center on Ward Road. I also recommend that all sportsmen and women get a questionnaire and fill it out. It has to be turned in by April 8.