One thing can be said about West Virginia's bear-hunting seasons: Year to year, they change quite a bit.
In 2009, hunters killed more bears during the bow season than they did during the December gun season. In 2010, hunters killed many more bears during the December gun season than they did during the bow season.
Last year, the archery season and December gun seasons balanced out, but hunters killed a lot more bears during the September gun season.
Chris Ryan, the Division of Natural Resources' game management services supervisor, has a simple explanation for the differences.
Ryan said acorns and other mast items were exceptionally scarce in 2009, and bears were concentrated in areas where food was relatively abundant. Bowhunters took advantage, but gun hunters couldn't because hungry bears went into hibernation before the December season could really get started.
In 2010, a record-breaking mast crop scattered bears to the four winds and made them difficult for bowhunters to find. The abundance of food kept bears out of their dens until late in the gun season, and gun hunters took advantage.
Last year, when the mast crop was pretty average, bowhunters killed 619 bruins, December gun hunters killed 681 and September gun hunters killed 631.
Ryan considers the September statistic particularly significant.