CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's switch to a two-a-day deer bag limit might not have much of an effect on the number of deer hunters kill, but it does appear to be affecting how they report those kills.
Biologists at several game-checking stations reported slower-than-usual action on Monday, the opening day of the 2013 buck firearm season. Paul Johansen, assistant wildlife chief for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said the number of deer reported in the morning and early-afternoon hours hadn't lived up to expectations.
"We had perfect weather today, and with that you'd expect to see more deer being checked in," said Johansen, who spent the day at a Raleigh County checking station. "I'm curious as to whether the ability to take two deer a day might be holding [hunters] out a bit."
In past years, hunters were allowed to kill only one deer a day. Anyone who killed a whitetail was required to stop hunting and to register the kill at a game-checking station. This year hunters are allowed to kill up to two deer a day, and can kill the second deer before checking in the first.
Johansen speculated that this year's hunters might be waiting to see if they kill that second deer before heading to a game-checking station.
"If that's true, we could be covered up [with hunters checking deer] into the evening hours," he added.
Chris Ryan, the DNR's supervisor of game management services, helped man a checking station in the Ripley area. He said almost all of the deer checked early in the day were antlered bucks, even though Jackson County is one of 46 counties where hunters are allowed to kill either bucks or does.
"The number of antlerless deer being checked in usually increases as the day goes along," Ryan explained. "Guys go out hoping to bag that big buck, but by late afternoon they're willing to shoot whatever they see."
Under the two-deer option, one of the deer can be an antlered buck, but at least one must be antlerless.
Ronnie Clark, of St. Albans, was one of the first hunters in the state to cash in on the two-deer option. At 9 a.m., while hunting in Mason County, he saw a four-point buck and a doe moving through the woods. He shot them both, but said afterward that he wished he hadn't.
"Dragging two deer out of the woods almost killed me," he said with a laugh. "It took me four hours to drag those deer two miles back to my truck."
Check-station biologists said hunters checked in some of what they called "nice bucks" -- deer with good-sized antler racks -- but said this year's racks are smaller on average than last year's.