DNR playing numbers game with doe permits
Thirty years ago, drawing a West Virginia antlerless-deer hunting permit was a cause to celebrate. Nowadays, not so much.
Antlerless tags are available "over the counter" and in unlimited numbers in most of the state's 55 counties. Plop down $10 and go kill a doe. It's that simple.
So why, in certain areas of the state, do state wildlife officials still maintain the old application process? Simple; to make sure enough female deer get killed in areas where the whitetail population is too low to justify unlimited numbers of doe hunters.
Curtis Taylor, wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources, said it's a numbers game.
"Over time, we've learned how many permits we need to issue to get a certain number of deer killed," he said. "We limit the number of permits in areas where we need to kill some antlerless deer, but not so many that we might exceed our harvest objective."
This year, DNR officials are offering limited permits for three state-run wildlife management areas, a small portion of the Monongahela National Forest, and all or parts of five counties.
The state-run lands include Calvin Price State Forest and the Elk River and Upper Mud River WMAs. The National Forest segment includes all the Monongahela National Forest that lies within the borders of Tucker County. The counties include all of Webster, northern Clay, eastern Fayette, eastern Nicholas, and private lands in Pocahontas.
The number of available permits is small.
For example, only 50 permits are available for the Upper Mud River WMA; 100 for Calvin Price State Forest; 200 for the Elk River WMA and 300 for the Monongahela Forest lands in Tucker County.
The county numbers are somewhat higher. Eastern Fayette and eastern Nicholas will get 200 each, northern Clay 300 and Pocahontas and Webster 400 apiece.
Setting the number of permits for each area involves as much art as science. Taylor said hunters' attitudes have historically played as large a role in biologists' reasoning as deer-population statistics.
"Early, early on in the process, we learned there was opposition to killing antlerless deer, especially on private land," Taylor explained. "Hunters would apply for permits never intending to use them. In some cases, entire hunting clubs would apply and deliberately not use their permits just to make sure fewer does got killed. We had to learn to allow for that and make enough permits available to allow for those we knew wouldn't get used."
Hunters' attitudes toward killing female deer have changed significantly, but DNR officials still struggle to get sportsmen to apply for limited permits. Taylor realizes hunters might not want to apply when permits are available in unlimited numbers throughout most of the state, but he said there are good reasons to consider it.
"As many options as people have [for antlerless-deer hunting] now, we have areas that are undersubscribed," he said. "Hunters who don't have access to private lands might want to consider applying for one of the public-land permits. Also, people who have historically hunted antlerless deer in some of these areas might want to consider applying so they can continue to hunt those areas."
Taylor said he has done just that in order to hunt on the Bluestone WMA, one of his favorite hunting grounds.
"We absolutely encourage hunters to apply for these permits," he said.
Applications are now available at all DNR district offices, the agency's Elkins Operations Center and its Charleston Headquarters. Applications also can be downloaded from the DNR's website, www.wvdnr.gov, by clicking on the Hunting/Main Page heading.
Applications must be received by the DNR before the close of business on Aug. 24, 2012, to be considered.