If bears have a lot of food available to them, the archery harvest declines. If food is scarce, the archery harvest soars.
The most extreme example of that phenomenon took place in 2009, when West Virginia suffered through the worst mast failure on record. Archers bagged a record 1,035 bears that fall, and the archery kill outstripped the firearm kill for only the second time since 1990.
Biologists are still working on this year's mast report, but Carpenter said acorns - a bear staple - don't appear to be as plentiful this year as they were last year. That should work in bowhunters' favor.
At the same time, though, soft mast items such as cherries and apples seem relatively abundant.
That could work against bowhunters, especially early in the season while those fruits are ripe.
In any event, by midseason most of the soft mast will be gone. Bears that ordinarily would be chowing down on acorns will have to look elsewhere for food.
Chances are they'll gravitate toward corn feeders and bait piles set out by deer hunters. If that happens, this year's bow kill could be substantial.
Reach John McCoy at 304-348-1231 or johnmc...@wvgazette.com.