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Officials also propose changes to bear, turkey seasons

West Virginia wildlife officials' blizzard of proposed new antlerless-deer regulations all but obscured changes agency officials requested for other hunting and fishing seasons.

Those proposed changes, announced a week ago at the Natural Resources Commission's winter-quarter meeting, involve several popular game and fish species.

The proposed change that raised the most eyebrows at the meeting was the Division of Natural Resources' plan to eliminate one Saturday of the fall turkey season in order to accommodate a proposed new three-day season for antlerless deer.

Several commissioners questioned the wisdom of "taking a Saturday away from turkey hunters and giving it to deer hunters." The commissioners instructed DNR officials to revisit the idea and find a way to better accommodate turkey hunters.

By contrast, the proposed bear-hunting regulations hardly raised an eyebrow.

DNR biologists asked for more liberal bear regulations in six counties: Hampshire, Grant, Hardy, Pendleton, Preston and Mingo.

The most dramatic change would occur in Mingo County, where biologists want to increase the bag limit to two bears a year and to add a six-day September season to the existing four-week December season.

In Hampshire County, DNR officials want to allow hunters to kill bears during the late-November firearm season for buck deer, and to continue firearm hunting for bears until the end of December.

In Grant, Hardy and Pendleton counties, the proposed change would add three days to the September firearm season.

In Preston County, biologists want to continue the six-day September season, add to that twelve days of concurrent bear-and-buck hunting during the deer firearm season, and top that off with the usual four-week December season.

DNR officials also proposed more restrictive regulations for three counties: Greenbrier, Nicholas and Webster.

In Greenbrier and Webster counties, biologists want to cut the six-day September season to three days; and in Nicholas County, they propose to eliminate concurrent bear-buck hunting.

Two proposed changes deal with coyote hunting. Both are included in administrative-regulation bills currently before the state Legislature, and will not have to be voted on by the Commission.

The first change would allow hunters to use .22-caliber centerfire rifles to kill coyotes at night. Current regulations restrict hunters who hunt at night to use less-powerful rimfire rifles.

DNR Director Frank Jezioro said such popular varmint-hunting calibers as the .223 Remington, the .22-250 Remington, the .222 Remington and the .220 Swift would all become legal if lawmakers approve the regulation.

The second change would allow hunters to use any colored light they wish for night coyote hunting. Current law restricts them to red or amber lights.

Fisheries officials proposed just three regulation changes.

The first would place a 40-inch minimum size limit on muskellunge in a one-mile stretch of the North Fork of the Hughes River in Ritchie County. The special-regulations area would begin at the North Bend Lake dam and would extend downstream one mile.

The second proposal would establish catch-and-release regulations for black bass at Edwards Run Pond, a new impoundment recently filled and stocked for the public.

The third proposal would establish a 30-inch minimum size limit for tiger muskellunge and northern pike.

Natural Resources Commission members will vote on the proposed changes later this year, either at the April or July quarterly meetings.

Reach John McCoy at johnmccoy@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.

 


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