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Time is right for a big scoop

Big changes appear to be in order at West Virginia's Division of Natural Resources.

Nothing is official yet, but a highly placed source within the agency says some of the state's most high-profile game and fish programs will be affected.

The source, whose identity can't be revealed just yet, took me aside recently and gave me a "deep background" interview that made my head spin. Usually deep background material is off-the-record. This interview was fully on the record.

"A real sea change is coming," the source told me. "The agency is ready to own up to almost all the mistakes it has made in fish and wildlife management over the past several decades."

When I asked for examples, the source smiled and said, "Get out your notebook."

"The first big admission will be that we've been starting the turkey season far too late. This year, for example, turkeys started breeding as early as mid-March. We thought about drafting an emergency regulation to start the season two weeks early, but we decided that might create too much confusion. For next year's season, though, sportsmen should expect the season to open the first Monday in April."

My jaw nearly hit the floor. "Are you kidding?"

"Nope. Serious as a heart attack," the source said. "And if you think that's something, wait till you see what's getting ready to happen to antlerless-deer regulations. After decades of trying to get hunters to kill more antlerless deer, we finally realized we were going about it all wrong. Back before we started having antlerless-deer seasons, sportsmen seemed to enjoy deer season more.

"Things were simple then. If it had antlers, you could shoot it. We've decided simpler is better. Effective for the 2013 season, we intend to impose a one-buck limit and put a halt to all antlerless-deer hunting."

"Holy cow," I replied. "How will you make up all that lost doe-tag license revenue?"

"We'll pick it up from fishermen. When people see the changes we're planning for bass and trout fishing, they'll buy tens of thousands more fishing licenses."

The source paused, and then explained.

"We're going to start stocking trophy Florida-strain largemouth bass. The fish will run 5 to 8 pounds, and they'll be stocked in all the state's major lakes and rivers.

"Same will go for trout. Brown and rainbow trout will have to be at least 18 inches long before they're stocked. We'll have a 12-inch minimum for brook trout. And starting next year, all West Virginia trout waters will receive weekly stockings."

By this time, my head was reeling. "What prompted all these changes?" I asked.

"We got tired of selling the un-sellable," the source replied. "We led the sporting public astray for so long, and in so many wayward directions. It finally got so we couldn't live with ourselves."

I leaned in. "Could you give me some examples of those deceptions?"

"Sure. You know how we've always claimed that coyotes migrated here from the Midwest? Total BS. We stocked 'em. We're stocking mountain lions, too. And rattlesnakes."

"Rattlesnakes? What for?"

"To help control coyote and mountain lion populations. You can't introduce predators unless you introduce something to keep their populations down."

I sat there, stunned. Many of the things I'd reported about the DNR had just been proven completely false, and all because one courageous woman on the agency's administrative staff had chosen to confide in me.

Her name? Well, let's just say her name is known to almost every West Virginian, in fact to almost every American:

It's April. April Fool.


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