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State opens up doe, anterless deer hunting

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The people who set West Virginia's hunting seasons have finalized a set of regulations designed to have hunters kill many more female deer.

Members of the state Natural Resources Commission on Sunday approved regulations for the state's 2012 big-game seasons, including those for deer. The new regulations seek to reduce deer populations in most counties by increasing bag limits for antlerless deer and creating incentives for hunters to kill antlerless deer instead of bucks.

One of the new regulations' most salient features include a requirement that hunters in counties with very high deer populations must kill an antlerless deer before they're allowed to kill a second antlered buck. The change will be in effect during both the archery and firearm seasons.

Another significant change -- which will go into effect in 2013 -- will allow hunters to take up to two deer a day, provided at least one is antlerless. This year, however, hunters will be allowed to kill just one deer a day.

The approved regulations also include a significant change to the antlerless-deer bag limits. In counties that had two- or four-deer limits in 2011, the 2012 bag limit will change to three. Wildlife officials sought the change in an attempt to simplify the regulations.

For towns and cities that hold urban deer seasons, the commission approved dramatically more liberal regulations. In place of bag limits that varied from town to town, a statewide bag limit of seven deer will go into effect this fall. Of the seven, two can be antlered bucks and the remainder must be antlerless. Municipalities will be able to open their special seasons as early as the second Saturday in September.

To increase the take of female deer before the "rut," or deer-mating season, commissioners approved a new three-day, late-October firearm season for antlerless deer. This year's season will be held Oct. 25-27.

The new October season forced wildlife officials to split the state's fall turkey season.

The original Division of Natural Resources proposal called for three weeks of turkey hunting that would have begun on a Monday, followed by another week in December. The proposal proved unpopular with hunters, who argued that the Monday opener would cause them to lose one full Saturday of turkey hunting.

DNR officials acquiesced, instead proposing a Saturday opener followed by a full week of turkey hunting; a break to accommodate the new antlerless-deer season; and an unbroken three-week resumption of the turkey season. This year's fall turkey season dates will run Oct. 13-20 and Oct. 29-Nov. 17.

Complaints from hunters also forced a change in the DNR's proposal to open the deer archery season on the Monday closest to Oct. 1. Bowhunters didn't like the idea of a Monday opener, so DNR officials changed it to the Saturday that falls closest to Oct. 1. This year's archery season will open Sept. 29.

Commission members approved a DNR recommendation to close the September antlerless-deer archery season, which had been less than popular with sportsmen. DNR officials had also proposed to shorten to three days the six-day September antlerless-deer muzzleloader season, but commission members instead chose to eliminate it altogether.

Other significant changes approved by the commission include:

* Moving the traditional December muzzleloader season ahead one week;

* Moving the traditional December antlerless-deer season back one week and reducing it from six days to three; and

* Allowing nonresident hunters to apply for antlerless-deer permits in counties and on public areas where the state offers limited permits. Before the change, applications for those permits were restricted to state residents only.

Agency officials were "extremely pleased overall with the meeting," said Paul Johansen, the DNR's assistant wildlife chief.

"We took very seriously the comments the public had made regarding our initial proposals. We came back with some modified proposals, and the commission adopted the vast majority of those we had revised."

Members of the commission include Jeff Bowers, from Pendleton County; Byron Chambers, Hampshire County; Pete Cuffaro, Ohio County; Dr. Tom Dotson, Greenbrier County; Dave Milne, Preston County; Dave Truban, Monongalia County; and Kenny Wilson, Logan County.

Reach John McCoy at johnmccoy@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.


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