CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Later this week, West Virginia's deer hunters will do something they'll probably find a little foreign.
They'll hunt for antlerless deer, with rifles, in October.
It's the October part they'll find unusual. Up to now, the earliest firearm seasons for antlerless deer have begun in late November.
Paul Johansen, assistant wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources, acknowledged that it might take hunters a while to get used to the idea.
"We fully recognize it will take people a year or two to get used to the new season," Johansen said. "That's certainly been the case with new seasons we've implemented in the past, and we expect it to be the case this time."
Wildlife officials think hunter participation will increase over time, and believe the season will eventually accomplish what it's designed to do - remove antlerless deer from the population before they have a chance to breed.
"The specific benefit to the deer herd is that it will compress the breeding season," Johansen explained. "When there are too many females in a deer population, the rut gets extended because it takes too much time for bucks to service all the does."
Instead of taking a couple of weeks, the rut can stretch to almost a month. Johansen said an extended rut inevitably leads to an extended birthing season for fawns the following spring - and that's a problem.
"When the fawn drop is spread out over a long period of time, newborn fawns become much more susceptible to predators," he said. "Coyotes and other predators have several weeks to pick fawns off when they're most helpless."
Johansen said predation isn't as great a problem when breeding and fawning seasons take place during shorter time periods.
"The window during which fawns are most helpless becomes compressed," he said. "Predators will always take some fawns, but with a shorter [birthing season] they don't take as many."
Combating predation isn't a shortened rut's only benefit.