"First, you have to have enough hunters available, and we have fewer hunters in the woods today than we had in the 1990s, when we were killing a lot more bucks."
The state's top two harvests, in 1995 and 1997, produced 100,034 and 102,484 bucks, respectively. Since then, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the number of resident and non-resident hunters in West Virginia has fallen from 369,000 to 247,000.
For that number of hunters to bag 200,000 bucks, four in every five hunters would have to score. Success rates that high simply don't happen, at least not in real-world, statewide hunts that include both public and private lands.
Not only are there fewer hunters, there are fewer deer. DNR officials consider the annual buck kill per square mile to be their index to the population. In 1997, hunters killed an average of 4.87 bucks per square mile. Last year, they killed 2.45. So, if the DNR's index is indeed accurate, the state has half as many deer today as it did then.
But let's suppose agency officials pulled out all the stops and instituted a month-long buck firearm season and a two-buck-per-day bag limit. If that occurred, could hunters kill 200,000 bucks?
Johansen doesn't think so.
"You'd run up against the law of diminishing returns," he explained. "As you remove more and more bucks from the population, hunters' success rates decline significantly.
"You see this during the second week of the season, when hunters traditionally have a much more time finding and killing bucks. Deer change their behavior; they become much more wary, and a lot less vulnerable to the gun. Hunters get fatigued, too. Hunting becomes a lot less desirable when you aren't seeing bucks."
Given what Johansen said, a buck kill of 100,000 seems highly unlikely. Two hundred thousand seems like fantasy.