"Considering the mast conditions, we were very happy with the number we got," he said.
Biologists' bold prediction of a new harvest record took place before they found out about the severe acorn shortage. Once mast conditions became clear, they grew concerned that hungry bears might choose to den up earlier than usual and be unavailable to hunters during the traditional December firearm season.
The fears went largely unfounded.
Hunters took 679 bruins during the September-October firearm season, 851 during the archery season, 361 during the late-November concurrent bear-buck season, and 791 during the December firearm season.
"The archery kill was higher than expected because of the acorn shortage," Ryan said. "But the bear-buck kill and the traditional kill also came in better than we expected, given the acorn situation."
Most of the bears killed during those seasons were taken in the state's high mountains, where acorns weren't as scarce
"Most of the places where acorns 'hit' were above 2,500 feet in elevation," Ryan explained.
"Those happen to be in counties open during the traditional firearm season, and in counties where the new bear-buck regulations were in place. Bears in those counties had more to eat, so they stayed out of their dens later and were more available to hunters."
DNR officials' lone disappointment came from the fall turkey season. Hunters bagged just 1,013 birds, 20 percent fewer than in 2012 and 12 percent below the five-year average.
Curtis Taylor, the DNR's wildlife chief, believes turkey hunters have lost interest in the fall hunt.
"It's a party no one comes to anymore," he said. "This year we had more counties open to fall hunting than we've ever had during modern times, but for some reason hunters chose not to participate."
Taylor believes hunters who once hunted turkeys in the fall are now focusing on other species.
"Before we had a lot of deer in the state, people hunted turkeys," he said. "Now that we have a lot of deer, turkeys aren't much of a draw anymore."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.