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DNR staying the course with antlerless deer regulations

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's antlerless-deer hunters won't have much to memorize this fall.

After making wholesale changes in season dates and bag limits last year, state wildlife officials are proposing only minor tweaks for 2013. The only differences, said Gary Foster, will center on which bag limits apply to which counties.

"There's some shuffling of counties from one [bag-limit or season-length] category to another," Foster explained. "Several counties will be moved to categories with more liberal regulations.

"But overall, the deer-season framework will be the same this fall as it was last year. The various seasons will follow the same order and will be the same lengths."

Foster, the Division of Natural Resources' game management supervisor, said DNR biologists want to stay with the 2012 structure for at least a few more years so they can accurately evaluate how effective it is in bringing whitetail populations into line with the agency's management guidelines.

"Last year, we put our new white-tailed deer operational plan into effect, and as a result we made quite a few changes to the deer-season structure," he said. "Now it's important that we have some stability for the next three to four years so we can evaluate the effectiveness of that structure."

In the past, DNR biologists gauged the effectiveness of their management efforts by one central criterion - each county's buck kill per square mile averaged over two seasons.

Today they take a much more diverse approach.

"For this year's regulation proposals, we're looking at data from the 2011 and 2012 deer harvests, we're evaluating crop-damage trends and deer-vehicle collision trends, and we're including data from our [biologists' spotlight surveys]," Foster said.

"Based on all that, we've proposed adjustments within various counties or sub-counties to try to put them within the appropriate season framework to harvest the number of antlerless deer we need to harvest in those counties."

DNR officials revealed those "proposed adjustments" at the Feb. 24 meeting of the Natural Resources Commission. The changes, if approved, would shake out as follows:

  • Six counties or parts of counties that were closed to antlerless-deer hunting in 2012 would be open to hunters holding lottery-drawn, county-specific permits: Boone, northern Greenbrier, Mercer, western Pendleton and eastern Raleigh.
  • Southern Lincoln County, which was closed to antlerless-deer hunting in 2012, would be open under a one-deer bag limit with unlimited numbers of permits available.
  • Seven counties or parts of counties would go from a one-deer limit to a three-deer limit: Barbour, Cabell, Gilmer, Grant, southern Greenbrier, Monroe and Roane.
  • Thirteen counties or parts of counties would move into the DNR's most liberal category - with unlimited numbers of permits, a 3-deer bag limit and an "earn-a-second-buck" special regulation.
  • Hunters in those counties would be required to kill an antlerless deer before they could kill a second buck: Berkeley, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Lewis, Marion, Mason, western Mineral, Morgan, Putnam, Ritchie, Wetzel and Wirt.

  • In 29 counties or parts of counties, the 2013 antlerless-deer regulations would remain the same as they were in 2012: Braxton, Brooke, Calhoun, northern Clay, Doddridge, eastern Fayette, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, northern Kanawha, northern Lincoln, Marshall, eastern Mineral, Monongalia, eastern Nicholas, Ohio, eastern Pendleton, Pleasants, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Summers, Taylor, Tucker, Tyler, Upshur, northern Wayne, Webster and Wood.
  • Foster said the DNR's guidelines allow for counties' regulations to become more conservative or more liberal. This fall, however, agency biologists don't propose to move any counties into more conservative categories.

    Sportsmen will have a chance to comment on the proposed regulations at 12 public meetings to be held March 18 and 19 at locations throughout the state. DNR officials will collect the surveys and will make them available to members of the Natural Resources Commission so they can vote on the proposals at their late-April meeting.

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


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