CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On Monday, West Virginians who hunt deer with muzzleloaders will break with tradition.
Instead of starting their season in mid-December, they'll start just after the beginning of the month. State wildlife officials pushed for the earlier season, and earlier this year the Natural Resources Commission approved it.
"Essentially what we've done is to move the muzzleloader season into the week when the traditional antlerless-deer season took place," said Paul Johansen, assistant wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources.
"It was something we wanted to do - a direct result of the modifications we recommended after we adopted our new deer management plan. Our thought was to provide muzzleloader enthusiasts some hunting days when the weather perhaps might be a little better."
A common knock on past antlerless seasons was that mid-December weather was bitterly cold and snowy more often than not.
"Hunters, especially elderly hunters, probably felt a lot less like hunting when the air temperature was down around 20 degrees and snow was blowing sideways," Johansen said. "With the new season framework, there's a good chance temperatures will be somewhat more moderate."
The new season will last six days, same as previous seasons. But even though the season won't last any longer, DNR officials expect more deer to be killed.
"We are anticipating a slightly better harvest," Johansen said. "In this year's Mast Report and Hunting Outlook, our biologists predicted that the antlerless kill would be similar to last year's, but probably a little higher."