"Originally, each station was supposed to gather data from at least 100 [11/2-year-old] bucks," Johansen said. "Now, because so many of the deer being checked are 21/2 years and older, we're actually having a hard time getting 100 'yearling' bucks. So we just get as many as come in over a three-day period."
Johansen outlined a typical biological-station workup:
"First, the deer needs to be checked officially, so we get all the information that a hunter traditionally has to have filled out on a check tag - date, name of hunter, weapon used, location, etc.
"After that, we age the animal by examining the wear on its teeth. Usually we cut the skin of the cheek and pry the jaws open to get a better look, but if the hunter wants to mount the deer we don't cut the skin.
"On bucks, we take data on the antlers' outside spread and beam diameter. And then we look at the overall physical condition of the animal and make comments about any health concerns. We look for hoof lesions, which would indicate that the deer had survived being infected with [epizootic hemorrhagic disease], and we note the presence of deer ticks and other parasites."
Johansen said West Virginia's deer herd, by and large, is "pretty darned healthy."
"Most of the deer we saw this year [at the biological stations] were fat and sassy," he said. "I don't know what guys at other stations saw, but at the station I worked in Raleigh County, we didn't see any deer that had hoof lesions."
Now that this year's biological stations have been run, DNR biologists now must enter all that information into their computer databases and start figuring out what it all means. All that work, representing thousands of deer, must be completed by early- to mid-January so agency officials can devise a framework for the 2013 hunting seasons.
"Deer are a tremendously important resource here in West Virginia," Johansen said. "We want to make sure we do the best job we possibly can do to better manage that resource."
Reach John McCoy at 304-348-1231 or e-mail johnmc...@wvgazette.com.