CHARLESTON -- The adjustment has begun.
West Virginia's deer archery season got under way Saturday, two weeks earlier than it had in the past. Wildlife officials expect hunters to kill more deer during the lengthened season, but don't expect any major changes in sportsmen's behavior.
"The main change is hunters will enjoy a few additional days of archery-hunting opportunity," said Paul Johansen, assistant wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources. "The real positive factor is that the new season structure will provide a couple of extra weekend days when hunters can get up into their tree stands."
To biologists, more hunting days - especially on weekends - almost always result in more deer being killed. Johansen said he expects a slight rise in this year's archery kill, especially in counties where deer are most abundant.
"Those are the counties where we have the most liberal [antlerless-deer] regulations. The longer season will afford hunters the opportunity to take more antlerless deer," he added.
In the past, Johansen couldn't be sure hunters anywhere in the state would choose to kill an antlerless deer instead of an antlered buck. This year, though, a new regulation has been put in place to force hunters to kill antlerless deer.
"In certain counties, bowhunters who take a buck must kill an antlerless deer before they're allowed to take a second antlered buck," Johansen explained.
The regulation, dubbed "earn-a-buck lite" because it applies to a hunter's second buck and not his first, will be enforced in Brooke, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Marshall, eastern Mineral, Monongalia, Ohio, Tyler and Wood counties.
Some hunters dislike killing antlerless deer because they think it harms the population, but Johansen said there are plenty of whitetails to go around.
"Certainly, the deer resource can accommodate the extra days of hunting," he added. "And bowhunters are becoming increasingly friendly toward the idea of killing antlerless deer.