CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- And so it begins. West Virginia's 2013 fall hunting season will get going Monday with a fusillade of shotgun blasts.
The firing will begin just after dawn when flocks of Canada geese stir from their slumber and head for their feeding grounds. The frequency of gunfire will increase at noon, when the first segment of the state's three-part hunting season for mourning doves begins.
As intense as the gunfire might get - and on dove fields in particular it can sound downright frantic - Monday's salvos are but preliminaries.
The state has only about 1,300 waterfowl hunters, and probably only a few thousand more dove-hunting enthusiasts. Even with good numbers of birds flying, it is unlikely more than 50,000 shots will be fired before sunset.
One might expect the firing to become more intense when the squirrel season opens on Sept. 14, but I'm not at all sure it will.
Squirrel-hunting conditions are far from ideal in mid-September. Trees still have their leaves, and spotting squirrels amid all that foliage can be an exercise in futility. Die-hard bushytail enthusiasts will be out there, but most of the 80,000 or so West Virginians who consider themselves to be squirrel hunters will probably keep their powder dry until mid-October.
It's unlikely that the Sept. 21 "early" firearm season for black bears will yield more than a few hundred shots. Again, most bear hunters will be waiting for the season's November and December segments, when conditions are more favorable.
The first major crescendo of shots will come on Sept. 28, but no one will hear them because they'll be silent, fired by bows rather than guns. The state's archery season for deer could attract as many as 100,000 hunters, so tens of thousands of arrows could fly on opening day.