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Doe-hunting portion of buck season could play out differently

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The doe-hunting component of West Virginia's buck season might play out a little differently this year.

If it does, chances are the difference will be traced back to three days in late October - the spanking-new first segment of the Mountain State's antlerless-deer season. Wildlife officials aren't sure what the effects might be, but they do expect some.

"That October season is designed to take antlerless deer out of the population before the rut takes place, so it stands to reason there will be fewer antlerless deer out there," said Paul Johansen, assistant wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources. "We don't yet have a handle on how many were killed, but we don't think it was a lot."

In recent years, roughly half of the state's antlerless-deer kill occurred during the first week of the 12-day buck season, when the most hunters were in the woods.

Another 12 percent occurred during the buck season's second week, 25 percent during the six-day "traditional" antlerless season in early December, and 12 percent during the late-December four-day "family" antlerless season.

When DNR officials established the October season, they essentially borrowed three days from the six-day traditional season, shortened the traditional season to three days and moved it to mid-December instead of early December.

If all factors were equal, the harvest totals for the October hunt and the traditional hunt would split 50-50, with each segment accounting for roughly 12 percent of the annual antlerless-deer harvest. Based on last year's antlerless harvest of 40,200, a 12 percent split would project to an October-segment harvest of about 4,800 deer.

Not all factors are equal, though, as Johansen readily acknowledged.

"Anecdotally, it doesn't look like the [October] kill was extraordinarily high," he said. "In talking with [biologists in] some of the districts, I got the impression there wasn't a very big [hunter] turnout."

For that reason, Johansen believes the October segment's impact on the buck-season antlerless hunt won't be significant. He added, though, that DNR officials expect that to change.

"Anytime you put a significant change into a regulations package, it takes hunters a year or two to adjust," he said. "We believe the October segment will eventually become established and will develop its own hunting tradition.

"If that happens, we believe the October antlerless kill could reach as high as 20 to 25 percent of the overall antlerless harvest. That would have a considerably more significant impact on the buck-season antlerless kill, simply because so many more deer would be missing from the population."

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


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