The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources had its annual regulations meeting at the Elkins Operations Center this past Tuesday.
Approximately 55 sportsmen and women attended. This is a slight improvement from last year, but not as good as I would like to see it. I was the first to sign in about 5:45 p.m. I made the recommendation that the sectional meetings return to the old classroom-type format. Several in attendance were quick to agree with me.
I also made the recommendation that Kanawha and Kumbrabow State Forests be turned into older-aged deer management areas. This idea got a few additional votes.
About 45 minutes into the meeting, I was approached by one of the state's game biologists, and he wanted to know why I was so much opposed to the opening of the squirrel season on the second Saturday in September. I gave him my reason from a bad experience that occurred in Kanawha in the late 1960s. For a short period of time, the state had an early squirrel season in several of the southern counties in this state. It was not very popular with the squirrel hunters of this region.
This game biologist was highly in favor of this set-up because it gives the adults a chance to introduce youth to the noble sport of hunting. At the same time, it does not interfere with the start of the deer bow season. The biologist also put big emphasis on the fact this state and nation has lost more than half of its squirrel hunters in the last 20-25 years due to changing times (computer games, Internet, increased school activities, etc.) He also informed me that Kentucky and Ohio open their squirrel seasons much earlier than West Virginia, and they don't have any problems with this set-up. The game biologists position on this issue does carry merit.
The state has several hunting seasons that are quite long, and they do overlap several hunting seasons. I look for this to continue as long as the game populations keep growing. I have always been in favor of introducing youth to sport hunting. The adults may have to give up some of their deer bow hunting time to be able to take young people squirrel hunting, or any type of small-game hunting. However, I am still in favor of opening the squirrel season on the last Saturday in September.
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The new Big Game Bulletins are available, and the 2013 big game harvest figures for black bear, wild turkey, wild boar and white-tailed deer are now official. This bulletin can be picked up at the Elkins Operations Center on Ward Road or be brought up online at www.wvdnr.gov.
The total white-tailed deer harvest for 2013 was 150,877. This is up from the total 2012 deer harvest of 132,261, or slightly more than 14 percent. The 2013 deer harvest was the 17th largest total deer harvest on record. However, it is nowhere near the record harvest of 255,356 set in 2002.
West Virginia hunters harvested 2,692 black bears during the 2013 archery and gun seasons combined. This is slightly lower than the 2012 record harvest of 2,735 but is the second highest on record. For all practical purposes, the bear harvest for the two years (2012-2013) are the same.
The 2013 spring gobbler harvest was 11,162. This is a 34 percent increase over the 2012 harvest of 8,303. This harvest ranks 14th and is the highest in the past seven years. The record spring gobbler harvest is 17,875 set in 2001.
The fall turkey harvest was 999. This is a 23 percent decrease from the 2012 harvest of 1,294. Decreased hunter participation could be the leading reason for this decline. The record fall harvest is 5,684 birds set in 1982.
Hunters killed 49 wild boars during the 2013 season. This is down from 69 taken in 2012. Bow hunters took a total of 25 and gun hunters took 24. The record is 158 boars set in 1995. The first year the DNR implemented a season on wild boar was 1979. Since then, a total of 2,005 wild boars have been taken in this state.
I am going to try to give a more comprehensive report from the 2013 Big Game Bulletin possibly next week.