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Chris Ellis: WV deer and turkey harvests show increases

December 18, 2018

The numbers are in. I love looking at the data or the report card of just how we as sportsmen and women fared during the hunting seasons thus far.

A good way to look into it is to take a glance at the harvest numbers our WVDNR reports. The big three in our state are deer, bears and turkeys. (Bear season is still going strong as well as antlerless deer seasons and archery so we can only take a peek at buck season and fall turkey numbers for now -- which both are huge indicators of how the 2018 hunting season is going.)

Preliminary data collected from the electronic game checking system indicates that deer hunters in West Virginia harvested 44,572 antlered deer during the two-week buck firearms season which ran from Nov. 19 through Dec. 1, according to Gary Foster, assistant chief of Game Management with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Section.

The 2018 harvest was 1 percent higher than the 2017 harvest. The top 10 counties for buck harvest in 2018 were Randolph (1,685), Preston (1,607), Greenbrier (1,479), Hampshire (1,471), Jackson (1,379), Pendleton (1,274), Grant (1,217), Hardy (1,212), Kanawha (1,212) and Mason (1,206).

In addition, West Virginia turkey hunters harvested 1,215 birds during the fall season, according to the Division of Natural Resources. That’s an increase of 28 percent above the 2017 season, and only 4 percent below the five-year average.

“Even with the incredibly wet summer we had this year, poult production was up from last year,” said Mike Peters, DNR game bird biologist. “That was a good indication fall harvest would also be up, as was predicted in the 2018 West Virginia Mast Survey and Hunter Outlook.”

Two main factors contributed to the improved harvest numbers, according to Peters. Brood production was up from last year and mast conditions were slightly below the long-term average. Poor mast conditions will concentrate birds and make it easier for hunters to bag a bird. The uptick in harvest from last year could also be attributed to the increase in hunting opportunity.

“It’s the third year all 55 counties had at least a one-week season, but it’s the first year that Sunday hunting was permitted in all 55 counties on both private and public land,” Peters said.

Leading the state was Randolph County, with hunters harvesting 76 birds followed by Nicholas (68), Greenbrier (65), Upshur (58), and Preston (54). The top three counties had a four-week season with Upshur and Preston County having a two-week season. District 3 hunters harvested 319 birds followed by District 1 (232), District 4 (230), District 2 (168), District 6 (149), and District 5 (117).

Sportsmen and women, keep up the good work. We are called on every year to be the active participants in wildlife conservation in both monies spent and animals harvested. And this year is looking very good indeed on both fronts.

Oh, by the way, don’t forget the new primitive weapons “Mountaineer Heritage Season” will be open for deer and bear during the period from Jan. 10 to 13, 2019. Refer to the 20182019 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary or visit the DNR website at www.wvdnr.gov for additional details as well as county and area listings. Good luck.

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 chris@elliscom.net.

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