For deer hunters, the DNR's 2013 season proposals are far less complicated.
"This year's proposed regulations will follow a framework very similar to last year's," said Paul Johansen, the agency's assistant wildlife chief. "We're proposing some additional liberalization to our antlerless-deer regulations, but we're not talking about anything drastic."
Five counties that were closed to antlerless-deer hunting in 2012 would be open this fall to hunters with lottery-drawn permits: Boone, northern Greenbrier, Mercer, western Pendleton and eastern Raleigh.
Another county that was closed -- Lincoln -- would be opened to antlerless-deer hunting with no limits on permits.
In seven counties, the bag limit for antlerless deer would rise from one to three: Barbour, Cabell, Gilmer, Grant, southern Greenbrier, Monroe and Roane.
And in 13 counties, hunters would be required to kill an antlerless deer before they would be allowed to kill a second buck: Berkeley, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Lewis, Marion, Mason, western Mineral, Morgan, Putnam, Ritchie, Wetzel and Wirt.
The addition of those 13 counties means that 22 of the state's 55 counties would fall under the DNR's most liberal antlerless-deer hunting regulations. Gary Foster, the agency's game management supervisor, said harvest data from the past two buck and antlerless seasons dictated a more liberal approach.
"We base our recommendations on a two-year average [of harvest data]," he explained. "We had an artificially low harvest in 2010, and that made the 2012 regulations a little more conservative than perhaps they should have been. This year's regulation proposal is based on the 2011 and 2012 harvests, which we think represented the condition of the deer population pretty accurately."
In addition to the big-game proposals, DNR officials asked the commission to place bag limits for the first time on a broad array of reptiles and amphibians.
Before the proposal, only bullfrogs, green frogs, snapping turtles and spiny softshell turtles had bag limits. Barb Sargent, the DNR's Natural Heritage Program coordinator, said the lack of regulations on other species was allowing wood turtles, box turtles, salamanders, snakes and lizards to be collected willy-nilly and sold on the black market for pets and for food.
"West Virginia has a reputation as being a 'black hole' where there is very little protection for reptiles and amphibians," Sargent said.
"For example, someone could come in here, buy a fishing license and take 100 turtles. In 2008, a bust in Hampshire County found three Florida men with $250,000 worth of turtles, snakes and frogs. We don't want that happening anymore, and that's why we've proposed these bag limits."
Commission members have the prerogative to approve, disapprove or modify any regulations proposed to them. The public will have a chance to comment on the proposals at a series of meetings the DNR will hold in March. Votes on proposed regulations should take place at the commission's late-April meeting.
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.