Another year and hunting season is about to come to an end. The year 2011 has been unusual in some respects.
The harvest for the two-week buck gun season was much better than most people expected. While some of the game biologists anticipated an increase over last year, most of them did not expect a whopping 37 percent increase over the 2010 harvest. The weather for nearly half of the two weeks of buck season was downright terrible here in Randolph County. I know that I will be eager to see the total harvest figure for all of the deer seasons (antlerless, archery, buck and muzzleloader) we have in this state.
Another thing I find unusual is the number of mature or older-aged bucks that were taken this year. I think the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will be handing out more of those "Big Buck Certificates" than it has for several years in the past.
In last week's column, I briefly described several of the hunting accidents and incidents that happened this past fall. I hope no one gets the wrong impression that sport hunting is a dangerous activity because the opposite is true. I have said in past columns that hunting is a very safe sport and will stand up to that conviction. This past deer season, approximately 275,000 hunters went after that "big buck." The number of hunters or individuals who had to have hospital emergency room services because of hunting incidents (accidental shooting, tree stand falls, heart attacks, etc.) is a very small fraction of 1 percent when we consider all the participants. This year could possibly be the safest on record, but I will have to do some research on my own to be able to confirm this.
I have not talked to any bear hunters this year. I only know that the number of bear sightings is up from last year. This harvest figure also will be interesting when the DNR releases it.
A few of the small game hunting and trapping seasons will remain open in early 2012. The squirrel season closes Jan. 31. The cottontail rabbit, raccoon, red and gray fox, and snowshoe hare will close on Feb. 29. The bobcat hunting and trapping season also will close on Feb. 29. Successful bobcat hunters and trappers need to remember this game animal must be checked in at an official game checking station; and the season limit is three.
Weather permitting, the DNR should start its trout stocking program in January. The 2012 fishing regulations are out, and a few changes have been made for black bass and walleye.
Another change that needs to be fully understood by senior outdoor men and women is the mandatory lifetime hunting, trapping and fishing (Class XS) license. All sportsmen who turn 65 on or after Jan. 1, 2012, must purchase this one-time $25 license. However, holders of lifetime hunting and fishing (Class AB-L) license will not be required to purchase this license.
I hope all my readers had a merry Christmas. New Year's Eve is now upon us. The West Virginia State Police say they mean it, when people are checked at a sobriety location, "if they are over the limit, they will be under arrest." Don't gamble with driving under the influence of alcohol. Happy New Year.