West Virginia Hunters Had Great Buck Deer Season

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Preliminary data collected from game checking stations across the state indicate deer hunters in West Virginia harvested 65,841 bucks during the two-week buck season, which ran from November 20 through December 2, according to Frank Jezioro, Director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. The 2006 buck harvest was up 16 percent from the 2005 harvest of 56,901. The top ten counties for buck harvest were as follows: Preston (2,597), Greenbrier (2,216), Ritchie (2,189), Hardy (2,171), Jackson (2,141), Mason (2,102), Monongalia (1,951), Wood (1,942), Wetzel (1,932) and Pendleton (1,858).

The increase in this year's buck kill is a result of a mild winter and good mast conditions in 2005. Wildlife Biologists and Managers operating biological checking stations in Hampshire, Upshur, Mason and Tyler counties reported improved antler development and overall physical condition for deer in the 1½-year age class. "Maintaining deer densities at biologically appropriate levels outlined in the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources' White-tailed Deer Operational Plan will continue to support good hunting opportunities and healthy deer populations in the Mountain State," noted Director Jezioro.

White-tailed deer are a product of their environment. Too many deer on a given tract of land can cause loss of body weight, reduction in antler development, decrease in reproduction and death due to starvation during winter months. "The state's deer management program is designed to be very responsive to changing population conditions," noted Jezioro. "Deer harvest regulations are adjusted annually to become either more conservative or more liberal, depending upon an assessment of current data and management objectives for a given county."

For example, several counties that supported deer populations below their management objectives were closed to antlerless deer hunting in 2006. As a result, deer populations should expand in these counties with an increased buck harvest in subsequent years. In counties where the deer populations are above their management objectives, liberal antlerless deer seasons were implemented in 2006. These liberal antlerless deer regulations are designed to remove female deer from the population and adjust deer densities down to appropriate levels that can be supported by existing habitat conditions.

Wildlife Biologists will analyze data from the combined 2006 deer seasons (i.e., buck, antlerless, archery and muzzleloader) for each of the state's counties. Following this careful assessment, appropriate deer harvest regulations for next year's seasons will be prepared for consideration by the Natural Resources Commission.

Director Jezioro reminds hunters that the traditional six-day antlerless deer season in selected counties on both public and private land ends December 9. The Youth and Class Q antlerless deer season will open on December 25 and 26 and be followed by a four-day reopening of antlerless deer season (December 27-30) on private land in 21 selected counties. Muzzleloader deer season begins December 11 and runs through December 16.