By Stephen Smoot
As West Virginia hunters and trappers look forward to the 2023 seasons, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources has released its new regulations guide. Some important changes have been made since last year.
First, Potomac Highlands deer hunters must remain aware that the West Virginia Chronic Wasting Disease Containment Area, which includes Grant, Hardy, Mineral, Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties, still has restrictions. All counties have baiting and feeding restrictions for deer in the wild. Every county in the area, except for Grant and Jefferson, forbids the removals of carcasses from the area except under certain conditions.
Deer from those counties can only be transported out if meat has been boned out, the meat has no part of the head or spinal column attached, the hide is clean with no head attached, a clean skull plate with antlers attached, and antlers with no meat or tissue. Finished taxidermy mounts can also be removed from the region.
Hunters of deer in four counties, Upshur, Barbour, Mason, and Jackson, have all been asked to bring deer harvested on November 20 and 21 to Biological Game Examination Stations, often set up at conveniently located gas stations or stores. These stations are open between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.
According to Stephen Roush from the WV DNR, “we initiated a five-year whitetail deer telemetry study” with 2023 being the third year. As he explains, the study provides information on the deer population. It will help to answer questions concerning the deer range and population. Much of it focuses on “specific mortality” of how deer are killed, not only from hunting, but also roadway deaths, natural predators, disease, and more.
Roush adds that “this is the biggest study that wildlife resources has ever done, especially with whitetail deer. Data will be used to assist in better herd management statewide.”
The WV DNR in many areas adjusted the season schedule and also established different bag limits for different counties. In Pendleton County, hunters will see archery and crossbow seasons extending from Sept. 30 to Dec. 31 with a maximum bag limit of three, among other restrictions and privileges. Buck firearms season lasts between Nov. 20 and Dec. 3 with a maximum season bag limit of two.
Additionally, antlerless firearms season in the county has four periods open, Oct. 26 to 29, Nov. 20 to Dec. 3, Dec. 7 through 10, and Dec. 28 to 31. The maximum season bag limit is three. Finally, muzzleloader season lasts from Dec. 11 to 17, with a maximum bag season limit of two.
Hunters traveling to other counties should check the guidebook to make sure they comply with the specific rules for each county.
Bear hunters will also see some changes, starting with a special split youth season. Young hunters, ages eight to 17, can participate if they hold a Class Q or Class XS license. The first segment occurs on Sept. 16 and 17 “in all or parts of 26 counties open to bear hunting with or without dogs.”
The second segment takes place on Oct. 21 and 22 in the 51 counties open to “a firearms deer hunting season.” Dogs may only be used when tracking a mortally wounded bear. The state considers this action an extension of hunting and all applicable laws and regulations apply.
Wild turkey season has seen adjustments in open counties and dates during the fall. Pendleton County’s season takes place between Oct. 14 and 22 and also Oct. 30 to Nov. 19.
Some changes in the laws and regulations came from acts passed by the West Virginia State Legislature in the last general session.
First, HB 3122 allows that those legally entitled to hunt “may hunt with a rifle using an encapsulated propellant charge that loads from the breech, with the bullet loaded from the muzzle, during any muzzleloader season,” but not “during Mountaineer Heritage Season.” The rifle must have a bore diameter of .38 caliber or larger.
Also, SB 733 created nonresident lifetime licenses. Applicants may contact WVDNR offices, license agents, or go online at WVDNR.gov.