For many diehard West Virginia archery hunters, September 28 has been marked on the calendars since the beginning of the year and finally the long wait is over. This past Saturday thousands of camo covered bow hunters took to the trees to kick off another deer season and hopefully tag a nice buck. The bucks have rubbed off their velvet revealing freshly polished bone ready for battle in a couple of months and to drive hunters to spend countless hours sitting on stand patiently waiting. From what I’m seeing in the woods the oak mast is going to be spotty this year. The chestnut and red oaks are dropping acorns right now, especially on the high ridge tops. It’s hit or miss in that under some trees there are several acorns and others, not so many.
Under the white oaks there are a few acorns but overall I’d say it’s a fair to below average oak mast for the year. On the other hand, the beech and hickory trees are loaded this year and produced an extra abundant crop. According to the WVDNR mast survey, “the abundance (or lack thereof) of oak mast may remind many of the dismal mast crop of 2009. The combination of beech, hickory, and walnut should help offset the lack of oak mast. Surveyors reported that although oak was scarce, oak abundance in the higher elevations was more plentiful. For example, elevations above 2,800 feet were more likely to have decent acorn crops.” Soft masts like apple, pear, cherry, persimmons, etc. also bared a heavy fruit and should be good places to concentrate on during the early season. Old fields and field edges, especially ones with fruit trees, would be ideal places to hunt this year. Even more so if the oak mast didn’t produce. That’s why it’s always important to scout before and even during the season to see where the deer are feeding in your hunting area as it will vary throughout the state. Find the food, and you’ll find the deer and maybe even a bear as archery season for black bear also started on Saturday, September 28.
The bear archery season is a split season (September 28-November 23 and December 9- December 31). The deer archery seasons runs through December 31. Archery deer hunters in 23 counties or portions thereof, not including Tucker County, are required to take an antlerless deer during the archery deer season prior to harvesting a second antlered deer during the archery deer season. Also in these same counties firearms season hunters are required to take an antlerless deer during the antlerless deer firearms seasons prior to harvesting a second antlered deer during the buck firearms season. A notable change for deer hunters this year is that you can now take 2 deer per day without checking in the first one. The 2013-2014 hunting regulations states that “The daily bag limit for deer has increased and up to two deer may be taken per day during any deer season, but only one antlered buck may be taken in a day. The first deer does not have to be legally checked at an official game check station prior to harvesting the second deer in the same day. However, all deer legally harvested must be checked by a Natural Resources Police officer or at an official checking station for retagging prior to hunting during a subsequent day.” This could help the hunter that doesn’t get very many days in the woods and for those remote hunting camps tucked back in the hills and hollows. All of these changes can be found in the 2013-2014 Hunting and Trapping Regulations or on-line at www.wvdnr.gov It’s always a good idea to check them before venturing out. Good luck to all my fellow West Virginia deer hunters this year. Be safe and wear those safety belts! And most of all enjoy your time in the wild and wonderful West Virginia outdoors.