The preliminary figures for the 2011 black bear and fall turkey harvests are now out. I said in a column last year that the bear harvest should be a record in 2011. Well, this is not the first time I have been wrong on something like this.
The total black bear harvest for all the seasons combined last year was 2,007. This is a 16 percent decrease from the 2010 harvest of 2,392, which is the record. However, the 2011 bear harvest is the third highest in state history.
I do agree with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources that the mast conditions last year had a high influence with the 2011 harvest. In 2010, the acorn crop was one of the best since mast condition records have been kept. The 2011 mast levels were not nearly as good. This shortage of fall food drives the bears to den up sooner. This could be the main reason why the gun harvest was down during the traditional December season.
Firearm hunters took 1,388 bears in 2011. Hunters took 631 bears in the early September season, 76 during the concurrent buck/bear season, and 681 during the December season. The top five counties were Randolph (148), Greenbrier (141), Pendleton (132), Pocahontas (112), and Webster (110).
Archery hunters took 619 bears in 2011. The top five counties were Randolph (70), Preston (56), Nicholas (44), Webster (41), and Wyoming (34).
In counties of local interest, total bear harvest for all seasons combined are as follows: Barbour (31), Tucker (90), Grant (88), Pendleton (146), Pocahontas (127), Webster (151), Upshur (8), and Randolph (218).
Preliminary figures for last year's fall turkey season show a kill of 1,172 birds. This is four percent higher than the 2010 harvest of 1,126 birds, but nowhere near to being a state record. The top five counties for 2011 were Randolph (142), Greenbrier (91), Preston (76), Pocahontas (68), and Monroe (63). The DNR game biologists predicted the 2011 harvest for fall turkeys would be close to the 2010 harvest which held true. The counties of local interest were: Grant (27), Pendleton (36), Tucker (17), Upshur (42), and Webster (44).
Right now the trout stocking trucks are rolling, and warm weather is in the forecast for some of the weekend and one or two days next week. The following area lakes and streams have been stocked in January: Cedar Creek Lake, Spruce Knob Lake, Blackwater River, Elk River, Laurel Fork, and Shavers Fork at Bemis.
It may seem like a long way off for some people, but area sportsmen and women need to mark their calendars for March 13. The DNR will hold their annual regulations open house meeting in Elkins on that evening (most likely at the Operations Center). This meeting used to be held in Elkins each year; but for the past six years, it has been held in Buckhannon. The attendance at the Buckhannon meeting was much lower than the one in Elkins.
I just wish the DNR would go back to using the old captive-audience or classroom-type format.
While the open house format offers a more relaxed atmosphere, everyone who attended was better informed about what the DNR would be doing for the next two years using this old format.
I cannot argue that some of the ideas that were presented from the various nimrods and anglers present would sometimes lead to heated discussions. However, there was never any hostilities or nasty name calling from anyone present.