by Josiah Cork
Hunters in West Virginia tagged over 11,000 deer on the first day of firearm buck season, which will likely increase, since hunters have three days to register harvested game.
After the first day of the much-awaited firearm buck season, the deer harvest seems to be running about the same as last year.
“We had a little over 11,000 bucks checked in, and that’s running pretty consistent or pretty close to what we saw last year,” Paul Johansen, chief of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources section, said Tuesday.
He noted that the first day’s total is not complete and will continue to increase.
“Hunters have 72 hours to check their deer from the time of kill. So we still have numbers coming in from the first day’s kill,” Johansen said.
Last year’s first-day total was about 12,265 deer after the count was completed.
“We’re running pretty close to last year, because I expect that number to go up as more hunters check their deer in,” Johansen said, referring to the 11,000 or so bucks checked in as of Tuesday.
“We had estimated that the kill was going to come in pretty close to last year. Of course, this is all preliminary. Things could change with weather and everything,” he said.
Despite subfreezing temperatures in the mornings, the weather so far has been mostly favorable for deer hunting, according to Johansen.
“Monday was a pretty decent day. We had reports of some pretty high winds in some areas of the state. That’s less than ideal. But other parts of the state reported really good weather. And cool temperatures, that’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing,” Johansen said.
The cold weather is good for hunting in part because of hunter behavior rather than deer behavior.
“People prefer hunting in the real cool weather as opposed to the hot weather we had been experiencing a couple weeks ago. So I would characterize the first couple days so far as looking pretty good,” Johansen said.
“In terms of the overall harvest, I can’t underestimate the importance of weather conditions and how important that is in terms of influencing hunter behavior,” he said.
Another factor that contributes to the total deer harvest is the food supply for the animals, which is recorded every year in the DNR’s mast report.
However, the bucks this time of year only have one thing on their minds.
“Food supply certainly can (have an influence). Right now we’re in the middle of the breeding season, or what they call the rut. So deer behavior is going to be heavily influenced by that breeding season,” Johansen said.
“Food always plays a role, but in terms of buck movement right now, they’re out chasing does. The does will be feeding, so food certainly plays a role in deer behavior and therefore what I would call how vulnerable they are to the gun,” Johansen said.
In addition to a good buck harvest, the first day had with only one hunter injury reported to the DNR.
“We did have a tree stand injury. A gentleman did fall out of a tree stand and got injured,” said Lt. Col. David Trader, deputy chief of the DNR.
Trader noted that proper safety and equipment inspection are vital to ensuring that similar incidents don’t occur more often.
“When we teach our hunter safety classes, we tell everybody to always make sure you check your stand and check your equipment,” he said.
“Make sure that all the working parts and pieces are working properly. And then you always want to wear your safety harness … from the time you start up the tree to the time you come back down,” Trader said.
For more information on deer hunting, hunter safety or other information, refer to wvdnr.gov.