Actually, a more accurate statement might be the regulations are out. The 2015-2016 Hunting and Trapping Regulation Summary for West Virginia is hot off the presses.
There are some big changes and some not so big changes for hunters this fall. The biggest and widest reaching will most likely be the fully automated electronic game checking system. The system actually unveiled in April of this year with barely a hiccup.
Any successful spring gobbler hunter used it to check in his bird and there have been few complaints. The system seems to be working just as planned. With the new electronic game check system, also, comes the completely electronic license purchasing.
The license purchasing is just as easy and takes over all aspects of the licenses, from buying your base license to purchasing all those extra stamps, right down to electronically filling out your application for special permit hunts like those limited draw bear tags.
The whole process starts by simply logging in to www.wvhunt.com and it will walk you through the new system. Licenses can still be purchased at some retailers around the state for those who just aren’t ready to jump into the digital age with both feet.
Another big change in the regulations is the legalization of crossbows for use during the archery season. Crossbows are now legal for use during any big game firearms season as well. One sticking point for the crossbow hunters out there is that it is not legal to hunt with a crossbow in the four archery only counties of Logan, Mingo, Wyoming and McDowell.
These counties are still only open to traditional archery equipment, unless the hunter has a class Y/YY handicapped permit.
The antlerless deer hunting counties and bag limits have changed again this year with a few less antlerless opportunities on the table with the hopes of letting the herd rebound just a bit. To the contrary, the bear hunting prescription this year will be a little bit brighter as the bruin population is still on the rise.
Make sure you take a good look at the regulations for all the details before heading off in search of a freezer filling doe, or that trophy black bear rug. The regulations for each vary from region to region, and sometimes county to county. The days of one size fits all management strategies are gone as the WVDNR tries to do its very best for the wildlife of the state.
For those of you that venture to the eastern panhandle to hunt, pay attention, as the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) containment area has been expanded. CWD is a vicious disease that affects animals like deer and elk.
The disease is transmitted when animals come in close contact with one another. For this reason the state has banned baiting in the containment area to prevent congregating animals and risking infection. The disease hasn’t been shown to pose a risk to humans and is generally contained in the head and spine of infected animals.
A special requirement in part of the containment zone requires that any animals harvest be deboned prior to transporting it out of the areas and no part of the head or spine is to leave the harvest area. These steps are taken to limit the chance the disease will spread to other regions.
More details on the special procedures are available on the WVDNR website and in the regulations summary.
As for the changes to fall turkey hunting, the counties have once again been modified based on the spring harvest. This year the only local county open to fall turkey hunting is Wyoming County, with their spring harvest pushing them across the threshold for the fall season.
Last, but not least, is the legalization of night vision technology for coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk and opossum during their respective seasons as outlined in the regulations. I guess the days of coon hunting with your grandpa’s old carbide mining light are officially gone, isn’t technology wonderful.
Overall the regulations are similar to all the years in the past, but just to be safe, it is always worth reading the regulations for yourself to make sure. Always take note of the openings and closings as they shift just a little each year.
The regulations can sometimes be confusing, and when in doubt it is worth talking to your local Natural Resources Police Officer, or giving your local DNR District office a call. Better safe than sorry.
Regulation pamphlets are available at various locations all over the state, and also available for download online at www.wvdnr.com. You can download them right to your computer or smart phone and always have a copy with you.
— Roger Wolfe is an Outdoor columnist for Civitas Media. He can be reached at [email protected]