Hunters Harvest 96,435 Bucks and 54,379 Antlerless Deer

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Preliminary data compiled by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources indicate that deer hunters in West Virginia harvested 96,435 bucks during the two-week buck season, which ran from November 25 through December 7, according to Ed Hamrick, Director of the Division of Natural Resources. The buck harvest was similar to last year's figures, down only 3% from the 2001 harvest of 99,380. The top ten counties were as follows: Randolph (3,871), Preston (3,514), Hampshire (3,501), Ritchie (3,402), Greenbrier (3,234), Hardy (3,200), Lewis (2,919), Monroe (2,714), Braxton (2,703) and Wetzel (2,657).

"Wildlife Biologists were also pleased to report that hunters harvested 54,379 antlerless deer during the concurrent, two-week buck and antlerless deer season," said Hamrick. "Harvesting female deer is the most important tool that we use to effectively manage deer populations. In an effort to ensure that healthy deer populations are maintained at biologically sustainable levels, antlerless deer hunting opportunities were liberalized this year in many counties." Antlerless deer hunting was permitted on private land during the full two-week buck season in forty counties, and the season bag limit for antlerless deer was increased to three in selected counties.

Hamrick reminds hunters that the traditional 6-day antlerless deer season runs from December 9-14 in selected counties on both public and private land. In addition, four days in late December (December 25-28) will be open to antlerless deer hunting on private land in selected counties.

"The Division of Natural Resources is promoting the last full week in December as a Family Antlerless Deer Hunt," said Hamrick. This week includes the second split of the Youth and Class Q Antlerless Deer Season (December 23 - 24) and the expanded antlerless deer season on private land in selected counties (December 25 - 28).

"The Family Antlerless Deer Hunt will allow for greater hunter participation during a period of the year when many family members are home for Christmas vacation," said Hamrick. Hunters should check the 2002 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Brochure for additional information about these enhanced hunting opportunities.

Wildlife biologists and managers collected biological data on bucks and antlerless deer during the first three days of the buck season at 30 check stations in selected counties. This information, when compiled and analyzed, will provide important insight into the overall physical condition of the state's deer population and aid biologists in making recommendations for the 2003 deer seasons. The deer examined at check stations appeared to be in good physical condition throughout most of the state, although some deer checked in the Southwestern region of the state were reported to be in fair condition.

"Many counties are still carrying too many deer for the habitat to sustain, and the harvest of appropriate numbers of antlerless deer will be the key to reducing deer populations to desired management levels and sustaining a healthy deer population," said Hamrick. "Reducing deer populations, where necessary to meet management objectives, will result in healthier deer, improved antler development and greater body weights."