I was talking to a very dissatisfied deer hunter this past week, who told me he had not bagged a buck this year.
This disgruntled person went on to say, "there are not as many deer as there was in the 80s and 90s ... They (the DNR) will still be telling us this year is some kind of record anyway."
On Dec. 10, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources released a preliminary report about the buck harvest statewide. Data collected from the game check-in stations throughout the state indicate deer hunters harvested 56,173 bucks during the two-week buck firearms season.
This is down from 60,157 bucks, or seven percent from what was taken during the same period in 2011. This is also down seven percent from the five-year average of 60,236. This year, the harvest was the 27th highest among all the recorded antlered firearms seasons.
The top five counties are as follows: Preston (2,108), Greenbrier (1,907), Randolph (1,792), Mason (1,667), and Jackson (1,662). This year, the buck gun season was open in 51 of the state's 55 counties.
Only 12 counties had an increase over last year. Most of these are located in the southern part of the state. One county (Clay) in the central part of West Virginia had a slight increase.
One county in the far Eastern panhandle (Jefferson) and another in the far Northern panhandle (Hancock) also had slight increases.
Access problems like downed trees associated with Superstorm Sandy, may have kept deer hunters from reaching their favorite locations.
I know this was a problem in the mountainous counties of Pocahontas, Randolph, and Tucker. This was a problem for me where I was hunting on opening day on Cherry Fork Road.
While Randolph County was in the top five counties with a kill of 1,792, this is down from 2,032, or 12 percent, from 2011.
Below is a comparison that includes Randolph and nearby counties with the 2012 harvest and the 2011 buck harvest along with the percentage difference:
Many of the state's wildlife biologists are pleased with these figures because they seem to think the deer population densities are more in balance with the food supplies for a specific area.
When we have a situation like this, there will be a healthy deer populations with trophy racks. The preliminary figures for the antlerless, archery, and muzzleloader seasons will not be released until next month. The figures will be official when the DNR releases the big game bulletin sometime in late February or March.
Wildlife biologists will analyze all of this data from the combined 2012 deer seasons before making any decisions for the 2013 deer hunting seasons.
These recommendations will be available for public viewing at the regulations meetings scheduled for March 18 and 19, 2013. The meeting for Elkins is scheduled for March 19 and will most likely be at the Elkins Operations Center.
Deer hunters need to keep in mind there is still some time to put venison in the freezer. The archery season will not go out until Dec.31.
The antlerless gun season will reopen on December 28 and run through Dec. 31.
Hunters taking an antlerless deer with a firearm need to remember they must have a Class N or NN stamp in their possession.