"Having fawns come out all at once, and earlier in the year, gives them more weeks to grow during the summer," Johansen said. "That makes them larger and in better condition going into the winter, which helps ensure winter survival."
Yet another benefit to the early antlerless season, Johansen added, is that breeding deer will have more food to eat.
"By removing a significant number of females early on, in the weeks before the rut begins, we'll end up with fewer deer on the landscape during the rut. There will be less competition for acorns and other foods," he said.
Johansen said early antlerless-deer seasons have been tried in other states, and are considered effective at helping wildlife officials create healthier whitetail herds.
"Harvesting female deer is the most important tool wildlife agencies have at their disposal for regulating deer populations," he said. "We're fortunate here in West Virginia to have the ability to suggest regulation changes on an annual basis so we can respond quickly to changes in deer numbers caused by [food shortages], disease, winterkill and other factors.
"This new, earlier antlerless season gives us what we think will be an effective tool for controlling [deer] populations and creating an overall healthier herd."
This year's early season is three days long - Oct. 25-27 - and is open in all counties where antlerless-deer hunting is permitted. Johansen believes hunters will use the early season as an opportunity to put "insurance" venison in the freezer in advance of the late-November firearm buck season.
The early season won't be hunters' only chance to take antlerless deer. The 12-day buck season will be open to antlerless-deer hunting on private lands, and another three-day season specifically for antlerless deer will take place Dec. 13-15.
Missing from the DNR's usual assortment of antlerless-deer opportunities is the six-day "traditional" antlerless season that used to immediately follow the buck season. Wildlife officials shifted the either-sex muzzleloader season into that slot, and split the six-day traditional hunt into the new October hunt and the three-day season in mid-December.
Johansen expects hunters to have mixed feelings about the October segment of the season until they experience it.
"When we surveyed hunters about [the October season] back in March, 57 percent of individual hunters favored it," he said. "Since the season was put into place, I haven't heard of any major issues or concerns about it. I think hunters are curious to see what happens."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.