Throughout my career as a hunter and someone employed by the outdoor industry, I have hunted in many areas of the country. In doing so, one of the most time-consuming tasks after the tag has been drawn and the hunting license was purchased is the reading and understanding of the state’s hunting regulations.
Each state is different and some states are very different than home when it comes to their game laws.
Having different games laws than your home state is perfectly fine and all it really requires is for you to understand and know their laws. The obvious ones are easy but some of the other might take a little studying to understand. At any rate, it doesn’t matter because it is your responsibility as a responsible hunter and an ethical steward of the game and the land.
A general rule for hunting anywhere in the country — you better know whose land you are on and make certain you have permission to be there from the owner. It is not a complicated although it may take some time and research.
If you are hunting with an outfitter, make certain to ask if the appropriate permission has been secured for you on their land or most often, their leased hunting grounds. And if you are hunting public lands, make certain you know the boundaries and have a map or an app on your phone to reference during your hunt.
Again, it is your responsibility to know whether you’re on public or private land.
A note came across my desk that was timed perfectly for this topic. In anticipation of fall hunting season coming up, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is reminding outdoorsmen and women to prepare for a safe and enjoyable season and to refresh themselves on hunting ethics.
“Hunting ethically and legally preserves our image as sportsmen and women and promotes good stewardship of our natural resources,” said Gary Foster, assistant chief in charge of Game Management for the West Virginia DNR.
One of the first steps in planning a hunting trip is identifying a place you’d like to hunt and checking regulations for that area or county. Topography or proximity to your home also might be a factor in choosing a location.
Should a hunter choose to hunt on private land, they should obtain written permission from the landowner and go over any ground rules for hunting in the area. While private land makes up 90 percent of West Virginia, there are still more than 1.4 million acres of public land open to hunting. This includes wildlife management areas, state forests and national forests.
Hunters also should practice shooting skills before the season. Other things to keep in mind include being courteous to other hunters and not crowding folks that got to the area before you. Successful hunters should be mindful of how they dispose of a harvest. Dumping carcasses and hides on public land is illegal.
Treat all land, whether public or private, as if it were your own. How we act in the field and treat others reflects on all of us as hunters, the West Virginia DNR says.
A little planning in the offseason can go a long way during the season. I hope you have a very safe, fun and rewarding season afield this year.
Chris Ellis of Fayetteville, W.Va., an outdoorsman and Marshall University graduate, is owner of Ellis Communications, a public relations agency serving the outdoor industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.