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A look back at last year in the great outdoors

January 2, 2019

It is hard to believe that 2018 is nearly in the books. It was a wild ride to say the least. It seems like they go by faster and faster and in this day and age of technology and social media, we can keep track of everything happening at once.

So, now that the year date changes and we are all writing the wrong year date on everything for weeks, let’s take a look back at 2018 as we mentally prepare ourselves for the great things to come. A lot of exciting things have happened in the past 12 months and, surely, more are on the horizon. 2018 started just like any other year with the cold and snowy and downright nasty weather forcing many of us indoors for extended periods of time and giving that dreaded cabin fever a chance to take hold and keep us wishing for warmer weather and the chance to get outside.

It didn’t take long for that very thing to happen. Just when you thought cabin fever would be the end, trout season was there to save the day. More trout was stocked this past spring in the streams and lakes all over the state than there had been in years.

The WVDNR even held their first ever Gold Rush stocking of all golden rainbow trout. That certainly put some excitement into the early spring waters. This year there are plans to do it again and even add a few additional locations to fill the streams with gold. Mark your calendar for April 1-6 and be ready to fill your net with gold.

Golden trout weren’t the only things making a buzz early in the year. Early spring saw the next batch of elk moving into the Mountain State to nearly quadruple the fledgling herd calling the southern coalfields home. Nearly 60 elk made the trip all the way from Arizona to help reestablish the species that has been gone from our local hills for well over a century.

With this new influx of wapiti, the state’s herd is nearing the century mark in its numbers and if you were lucky enough to be in the mountains of the elk zone in September and October, you may have gotten the added treat of hearing a wild elk bugle as it searched for its mate. Now there is something that most people didn’t expect just a few years ago!

From trout fishing to elk roaming, things really got exciting as the spring gobbler season heated up. It was one for the record books with 12,274 spring gobblers taking a dirt nap in the four-week season. This is a 15-year high and 6-percent increase over 2017. Now that is something to gobble over.

Even better is from looking at brood count numbers and habitat scores, it looks like there will be even more gobblers to hunt in the year 2019. Just another thing to look forward to as we close one chapter and begin the next.

Luckily, we did get a few great summer months where the bass were hungry, and the catfish were ready to fight.

There were plenty of reports of big fish caught all over the state of every species and on every bait. Time spent on the water can’t be beat whether you are reeling in the big one or just floating around in a canoe or kayak.

As we enjoyed those lazy days on the water last summer, who knew that in just a blink of an eye it would turn to Fall and it would be bear and deer season all over again. What seemed like it would never get here last January had slipped up on us and it was time to hit the woods with our weapons of choice.

The final number for the all the big game season this fall won’t be out for a few weeks yet, but it seems like it has been a great year in all the categories. There have been black bears falling all over the state and a few of those bruins have been of record book proportions.

Bowhunters have harvested trophy buck after trophy buck and those die-hard hunters will hunt right up until the last hour for one more chance to bag the big one or maybe just to fill the freezer. Either way, the numbers should prove that the archery and bear season was a success.

The buck firearm season harvested 44,455 antlered bucks even despite some less than ideal weather in parts of the state for some of the season. This number is a slight increase from the 2017 harvest and, hopefully, shows the harvest numbers starting to climb from a bit of a slump in recent years.

There were so many other happenings in the outdoors in 2018 that it’s too hard to list them all. There were fishing days and derbys, river floats and fishing tournaments, and new boat ramps and livery services all over the place.

With all the excitement that went on outside in 2018, it is a wonder that any of us ever got anything done indoors. I, for one, am OK with that and I am excited to kick off the new year. I even heard that many of the state parks around the state are kicking off 2019 with a special New Year’s Day Hike. I can’t think of a better way to start the year! Here’s to wishing everyone a happy and prosperous new year and if we all work together, I am sure 2019 will be the best one yet. Happy New Year from my family to yours!

Roger Wolfe is an avid outdoorsman and has spent most of his life hunting and fishing and writes a weekly outdoors column for HD Media. He is a resident of Chapmanville and can be reached via email at wolfeii@hotmail.com.

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