CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- So ... another year has passed. All things considered, 2013 wasn't a bad year for West Virginia's hunters and anglers. Not bad at all, in fact.
Deer hunters overcame a gosh-awful start and managed to kill more deer than they should have, given the circumstances. Spring turkey hunters enjoyed their best season since 2009.
Fishing, buoyed by one of the wettest summers in recent memory, stayed good almost all year. The state's trout hatcheries were spared the late-summer low-water conditions that usually plague them, and trout production for the 2014 stocking season was good.
There were setbacks, of course.
For reasons known only to nature, the state's oak trees bore unusually few acorns. Oak mast's scarcity affected the fortunes of hunters seeking everything from squirrels and turkeys to deer and bears.
Oak flats, ordinarily excellent places to seek those species, suddenly became locations to avoid. Fortunately for squirrel hunters, banner crops of hickory nuts and beechnuts helped make up for the acorn shortfall. Beechnuts, black cherries and grapes helped sustain turkeys. Beechnuts, apples and crabapples provided at least some forage for deer and bears.
Still, the overarching scarcity of oak mast caused bears to den up earlier than usual. It pushed deer out of the forests and into fields, where they became more vulnerable to hunters and to predators.
Despite that vulnerability, the deer population didn't suffer the dramatic hit some hunters feared it would.
Last spring, when the Natural Resources Commission adopted the most liberal antlerless-deer regulations in state history, critics worried that the state might experience the modern-day equivalent to the Tucker County Buck Wars of the early 1950s, when Legislature-imposed liberal hunting regulations decimated the state's whitetail population.