Deer kill numbers are rolling in at roughly half what they were a short decade back.
So what’s the hunting public supposed to think?
Just what’s going on out there in the world of the amazing West Virginia white-tailed deer? Habitat quality and environmental factors from the likes of predators and disease to mast failure and winter severity all have and play important roles. What’s more, the management prescription for deer numbers has been lowered a notch to a more realistic and healthy deer herd level.
So in a nutshell, this is why most folks are seeing less deer afield. But this year may be time for pause to add in some rebuild as the county by county herd management units are mostly at or below their new goals as opposed to above them that short decade ago. But first here’s a quick look at some of the changes in the big picture or “landscape” basis.
Landscape or statewide habitat quality is generally in decline for deer. Sure, deer love acorns but they like the brush stage of a young forest much better. Logging had all but ceased during the Great Recession and habitat thus suffered. Mast failures were woven in with a return of winter, tag teaming on occasion for major winter kills. EHD disease (blue-tongue or hemorrhagic disease) kicked some major butt in select years. CWD (chronic wasting disease) is spreading.
Coyotes are now saturated where before there were none, black bears and bobcats are at modern era record levels. Deer managers kept the heat on the herds all the while in the form of the bullet once and for all getting a handle over most of the state’s business of population control with the help of all those other stated factors. That being said, look for some belt tightening as the herds may now be let up for a bit of air so to speak.
As deer managers study the check station data from the hunter reported kills of 2012, they will convene and present this year hunting regulations to the civilian Commission in March just in time for the public meeting circuit whereby you can have a look and get some say. March rightfully should be the earliest presentation so that the severity of the present winter kill can be adjusted for. This has not always been the case.
The management check valve or belt tightening is seen in the antlerless deer hunting prescriptions here and there. A county closure or two, reduced limits or limited quota instead of unlimited tags for example. For antlered deer, the annual limit of three seems continually under question at least that’s what our readers tell me, preferring and many of them liking the one buck limit a la Kentucky, Pennsylvania and others. How about an incremental move to a two buck limit of which no more than one can be a young spike? The Commissioners all but scrapped the three limit a couple years back so stay tuned.
What are your thoughts and ideas on the matter? Make a note and bring them to the sectional meeting here in March. In the meantime, we’ll keep you posted.
— Bob Fala’s book Ramblin’ Outdoors is available at the Banner Office.