ELKINS — The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources anticipates more than 250,000 hunters in the woods today for the opening day of the 2018 buck season. The traditional season for killing bucks with a firearm runs for two weeks, but the bulk of those will be killed in the first three days.
“We would anticipate that buck harvest come in around 50,000 bucks,” said Gary Foster, assistant chief for Game at the West Virginia DNR. “We’ve got pretty good mast conditions statewide. The harvest will usually be in between [45,000] and 55,000.”
Timing of this year’s season works in favor of the hunters. The traditional opening day is always the Monday prior to Thanksgiving. But the day tends to float on the calendar, and this year, it floated very near the peak of the rut for deer.
“The season is early this year the way the calendar falls,” Foster said. “Rutting activity should be quite active, and I think that will have a positive impact on the harvest, as well.”
Although the season is anticipated all year, many West Virginia hunters can be deterred by bad weather. If the first three days of the season feature wind, rain or fiercely cold temperature, the harvest will be negatively impacted. It’s not the deer that are necessarily impacted by the weather, according to Foster, but hunter participation in foul weather will decrease.
Additionally, while buck season is under way in 51 of the state’s 55 counties, there is a concurrent antlerless hunting season happening in a large number of counties on private land. It’s a season almost as popular as hunting for bucks. Foster said a lot of hunters simply hunt for the first deer to walk by — male or female.
“We implemented that several years ago, and it’s been very popular,” he said. “The majority of our antlerless deer harvest comes in the first few days of the buck firearm season when the season is running concurrent.”
Successful hunters are required to check in the deer they kill. The process is simple and quick using the DNR’s online check-in program. Hunters can use their smart phones and have a check tag number for their deer before they move it from the woods. In two counties, for the first two days of the season, hunters will still need to let DNR biologists take a look at the carcass.
“We’re going to be working stations in Mineral and Berkeley County,” Foster said. “Those will be mandatory check-in stations on the first two days.”
The mandated collection is part of the DNR’s efforts to monitor the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. There will be nine biological data collection stations set up in the two counties today and Tuesday. The list of locations is in the DNR regulations brochure and at wvdnr.gov.