Last was a good year for deer hunters in West Virginia. They bagged 132,261 whitetails, including 71,628 that sported antlers. Total harvest was only slightly down from 2011, and hunters should see even more mature bucks in 2013.

“Data collected at our check stations last year showed a major shift in the age structure of bucks being harvested,” said Chris Ryan, supervisor of game research for the W. VA. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “In 2012, 58 percent of all bucks examined were 2-1/2 years old and older.”

While hunters in most wildlife management areas (WMAs) are free to harvest any antlered buck, all antlered deer taken during archery season on Beech Fork Lake, Bluestone Lake, Burnsville Lake, and McClintic WMAs and Coopers Rock and Calvin Price State Forests must have a minimum outside antler spread of 14 inches (ear tip to ear tip). The annual bag limit for antlered deer on these areas is one for all seasons combined.

Regulation Changes
This fall hunters are allowed to harvest two deer per day, but only one antlered deer may be harvested per day. Hunters don’t have to check their first deer at any of 800 check stations found throughout the state prior to harvesting a second deer in the same day.

Another major change is that bear season will run concurrently with firearm deer season in 29 counties. Hunters may harvest up to two bears in Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Raleigh and Wyoming counties. The total number of bear permits issued won’t be finalized until the DNR completes its annual survey of mast crops. Preliminary information points to a smaller oak crop this fall due to heavy rains when oaks were flowering and a derecho (heavy wind storm) that hit the Mountain State last summer. “Although we don’t know for sure, I suspect that the derecho really messed up our red oak crop in 2013,” said Ryan.

Public Land
Logan, Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming counties continue to be archery-only for deer hunting. Hunters can find plenty of good public land to pursue a Pope and Young buck on numerous WMAs in those counties, with Berwind Lake, Panther and R. D. Bailey Lake being just a few of the hotspots.