According to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, West Virginia hunters harvested a total of 2,682 black bears during the combined bow and firearms seasons in 2013.
This preliminary figure is almost identical to the record 2012 harvest of 2,691 black bears. The percentage differences between the two seasons or years is insignificant. This is the fourth time in the past five years the total bear harvest has exceeded 2,000. Naturally, the 2012 harvest is the second highest on record.
Remember, this is only a preliminary figure. The DNR could get some late field tags in to where the 2013 harvest could be greater than the 2012 harvest.
Mast conditions always have a tremendous influence of any year's bear harvest. The 2013 Mast Survey documented the lowest statewide oak index in the survey's history. Oak's mast appeared to be only in abundance in the higher elevations of the Eastern mountains.
The top five counties in the total black bear harvest were: Randolph (297), Pendleton (220), Greenbrier (180), Webster (178) and Nicholas (145).
The lower mast conditions statewide allowed the archery bear hunters to pattern the bears effectively which led to an increased bow harvest of 851. This is up from the official 2012 bow harvest of 747. This is also the highest bow harvest in about three years. The top five counties for the 2013 bear archery season were: Wyoming (45), Fayette (61), Raleigh (58), Logan (52) and Randolph (52). Most of these counties are located in the Southern part of the state.
Black bear gun hunters harvested a total of 1,831 bears in 2013.
Hunters took 679 in September and October, 361 during the concurrent buck/bear season and 791 during the traditional December season. The top five counties for all of the firearm seasons were Randolph (245), Pendleton (201), Greenbrier (151), Webster (134) and Pocahontas (131).
In other counties of local interest the total bear harvest was like this: Barbour (46) Grant (90), Harrison (4), Lewis (7), Pocahontas (140), Tucker (108), and Upshur (18). Just what next year's mast crop is going to be like is anyone's assumption, but let's say we have an average oak crop statewide with an average black bear reproduction this spring, then the stage is set for another record bear harvest in a few years. I think the bear hunters can be somewhat optimistic for several years to come.
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Despite the bitter cold weather we are now having, the DNR has been able to stock a few of the lakes and streams in this area. Among these include: Blackwater River in Tucker County, Huey Lake in Marion County, Lost River in Hardy County, North Fork of South Branch in Grant/Pendleton Counties, South Branch at Franklin Pendleton County, Spruce Knob Lake in Randolph County, Trout Run in Hardy County, Waites Run in Hardy County and Williams River in Pocahontas/Webster Counties. It may seem like a long way off for a few anglers, but when this bad weather breaks the trout stocking trucks will be rolling again. With the fish that have already been stocked and what will be stocked in the future is all the more reason to be optimistic for good fishing in the late winter and early spring
This is just typical Elkins winter weather we are now having.
Hopefully, some of these sub-zero temperatures that are in the forecast will kill many of the insect eggs to where they will not be a big problem this coming spring and summer.