Statewide buck harvest is down

This past Tuesday, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources released the preliminary harvest figures for this year’s two-week deer-buck gun season.

In 2017, hunters harvested 44,455 bucks statewide. This is down from the 2016 harvest of 46,071, or 3.5 percent.

Like it has been for the past 40 years, 51 counties were open for the traditional two-week deer gun season. The top five counties were: Preston (1,957), Randolph (1,647), Greenbrier (1,631), Hampshire (1,394), and Ritchie (1,347). Braxton County finished seventh with 1,234, and Lewis County finished eighth at 1,216.

From the data that was contained in the news release, I don’t see how any new records were set in any county from this year’s buck-gun harvest. There may not be as many white-tailed deer in West Virginia as what there were at the turn of the century. In some respects, this is good. Between the years 1995 and 2005, the state had mast conditions that were well above average for a few years in a row during this 10-year period. Some of the game biologists estimated the state’s deer population to be around three-quarters of a million. Now, in an average mast year, there are not enough groceries to feed this many animals in this relatively small state.

In counties of local interest for this year’s two-week buck firearms season: Barbour had a harvest of 988, down from 1,098 in 2016, or 10 percent; Grant was at 1,198, up from 954, or 25 percent; Pendleton at 1,026, down from 1,088, or six percent; Pocahontas at 1,047, up from 921, or 14 percent; Randolph at 1,647, up from 1,617, or 2 percent; Tucker at 825, up from 730, or 13 percent; Upshur at 1,036, down from 1,399, or 25 percent; and Webster at 776, down from 941, or 18 percent.

There are still some days of deer hunting left for 2017 even though the muzzleloader season goes out today. The antlerless deer season will come back in for selected counties on both public and private acreage on Thursday through Saturday. The Youth, Class Q/QQ, and Class XS deer season for antlerless deer will reopen for Dec. 26 and 27 in any county with a firearms deer season. This will be followed by the reopening of the Class N/NN antlerless deer season on Dec. 28 through 31 in specified counties.

Here is where all deer hunters need to consult the 2017-2018 Hunting and Trapping Regulations.

Just what next year’s reproduction will be can be anyone’s guess. There is plenty of mast this year for the deer to fatten up on for the winter. What next year’s mast will be will most likely depend on what the weather brings for the months of April, May and June of next year.

I was one of the many hunters who got skunked for the buck season this year. On the opening day, I was at the same location where I got a spike buck last year. This year, I think everyone who was hunting nearby was dragging venison out of the woods except me.

I had plans to be out all day for the last day of the buck season, but ended up being sick in bed for most of that day. Maybe I can get a few more squirrels before the end of the hunting season.

Right now, Ruth and I are looking forward to attending the Izaak Walton League Christmas dinner party that will be held at the clubhouse tomorrow for the members and their families. Here is where sportsmen and women will be swapping tales about not only this year’s hunting season, but past years as well.