2017-11-15 / Columns

2017 White-tailed Deer Hunting Season

by Dan Stiles
Wildlife Biologist

Figuring out the exact meaning of the WVDNR hunting regulations is somewhat of a nightmare, at least it is for me. The regulations are 46 full size pages long, and they are complex. I’ll bet potential hunters are scared off by all these pages of regulations. In the olden days, as I recall, regulations were pretty brief, clear and uncomplicated.

For example, consider the dates of the hunting season for deer, just the dates! Hunting antlered deer with a firearm starts on November 20 and ends on December 2. Hunting deer with a crossbow or regular bow begins on September 30 and continues until December 31. The antlerless deer season begins (in select counties) on November 20 and ends on December 2, also December 14 to December 16, also December 28 to December 31 (“see pages 14-19”). Muzzleloader season is December 4 to December 9. And, there is a special “youth/class Q/QQ/class XS” split season (“see page 32”), a one-day season on October 21 and December 26 and on December 27.

I’m focused on November 20. The antlerless and antlered season coincide on that day. I’ll need all kinds of warm clothing, including gloves and footgear that will help me withstand the potentially long, cold hours in my tree stand. I need to bring my hunting license, a tag, a pen, along with my camera, iPhone, a couple of extra shells, a rope, knife, blaze orange outer jacket and hat. My Ruger One 30.06 rifle (it was my Dad’s) needs to be fired once before the season begins to be sure it is still exactly on target at 50 yards. I’ll need to have something to eat up there if no deer appears in range by lunch time, including (traditionally) a couple of apples.

It has been my experience that around noon is the best time to shoot a deer, if not at the break of dawn on the first day, because hunters tend to walk out of the woods for lunch and they spook the deer.

My motion triggered cameras show dozens of pictures of antlerless as well as antlered deer roaming about. Several bucks have eight “points,” and there are a number of “spikes,” as well as four and six-pointers. Incidentally, there has been an above average production of acorns this year, and a well above average production of hickory nuts. Therefore, deer, turkeys, bears, squirrels and all the other acorn/hickory nut eating critters ought to survive this coming winter in good shape.

Friends ask if it is a problem to stay awake in a comfortable tree stand. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s always interesting looking around up there, and listening. All kinds of animals and birds come by, and I always have my camera hanging on a branch within arm’s reach. And, almost always, in the hour before it’s too dusky to see well, deer, bears, squirrels, and predators of all kinds begin to move about. If the leaves are dry, it is all the more interesting.

And to my pacifist friends, a bullet through the heart or both lungs is far more humane, I would think, than a slow death through starvation or a natural death by predators - coyotes or a bobcat. This elderly hunter thoroughly enjoys being in a tree stand simply watching and listening to the sights and sounds of the natural world.

The hunting regulations, all 46 pages of them, don’t talk about hunting ethics. They are the unwritten rules that few hunters talk about, but we all should understand them. For example, hunters ought not shoot (blaze away repeatedly) at a distant, running deer. And, offhand shooting is very difficult. Steady your rifle by resting it against a tree or other stable object. After all, for any hunter it is a disgrace to wound a deer.They are magnificent animals that deserve our admiration and respect, and that’s putting it mildly.

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This is so true... It's been

This is so true... It's been about 10 years since I've hunted in West Virginia, and that was done as a non-resident... It seemed much simpler then... I only hunted rifle season, but it was pretty cut and dry... If you had a buck stamp, you could take 1 buck... If you were lucky enough to get a doe stamp, you could take 1 doe... I'm hunting as a resident these days, and still trying to figure out what is legal, and when... I know I've purchased more stamps, and licenses then a resident hunter probably needs, because I want to be legal, and having some trouble interpreting the notebook of regulations...