Four-day hunting season to begin Jan. 10

January 2, 2019

January will have something new in store for West Virginia’s deer and bear hunters.

A brand-new four-day hunt — the “Mountaineer Heritage” season — will allow primitive-weapons enthusiasts to extend their big-game hunting into 2019. The season will be open to hunters who use flintlock or caplock rifles, recurve bows or longbows.

State wildlife officials say they had two principal reasons for instituting the season:

“Over the years, we’d gotten more and more requests for a January muzzleloader season,” said Gary Foster, the Division of Natural Resources’ assistant chief in charge of game management. “A few years back, one of our biologists, Allan Niederberger, proposed it up at one of our January biologist meetings. We evaluated it, but we couldn’t do it at the time. Last January we took another look at it, modified the original idea, and forwarded our proposal to the Natural Resources Commission.”

To gauge public support for the season, DNR officials in March asked hunters how they would feel about a January primitive-weapons season. Sportsmen and sportswomen answered enthusiastically. Seventy-eight percent of them said they favored the proposal.

The seven-member commission voted in May to put the season into place, and to set Jan. 10-13 as the inaugural time frame.

The four-day format will include hunting on both a Saturday and a Sunday, when most hunters are off from work.

Foster said hunters who take part in the hunt need to keep a couple of things in mind.

“One, they’ll need to get a 2019 hunting license,” he continued. “And two, the animals they harvest during the season will be applied to their 2018 bag limits.”

Deer hunters will be able to take either an antlered buck or an antlerless deer on their base license as long as they don’t exceed the state’s three-buck maximum limit.

“Hunters who have already taken three bucks will have to hunt for antlerless deer,” Foster said.

Bear hunters will need to acquire a 2019 Bear Damage Stamp in addition to a 2019 hunting license. The bears they kill will also count toward their 2018 bag limits.

Foster said he doesn’t expect many bears to be killed, mainly because most bears should be in hibernation by the time the season begins.

“Most of the animals harvested will be deer,” he said. “We’ll be watching to see how much success hunters have. We don’t expect the harvest to have any biologically significant impact on the deer or bear populations.”

It might, however, have an effect on hunters’ recreation. In a random survey conducted last summer among the state’s deer hunters, 42 percent said they intended to take part in the Mountaineer Heritage hunt.

“That’s a pretty good indicator that there’s a substantial amount of enthusiasm out there for a January hunt,” Foster said. “It certainly creates additional days of hunter recreation, and that’s always a good thing.”

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