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State gun season kicks off for hunters

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - More than 330,000 hunters headed into the West Virginia forests Monday hoping to bag a buck.

Buck season officially kicked off Monday morning in West Virginia as hunters from around the state and abroad began their yearly rituals.

Hoy Murphy, spokesman for the state Division of Natural Resources, said it was a busy day and he expected good hunting.

"Based on the weather and how many deer are actually out there, we expect a good harvest this year," Murphy said.

The number of active hunters was about 20 percent of the state's population.

Murphy said the first three days of buck season are the busiest. He estimated more than half of the deer harvest would be taken in the first three days, though there still would be plenty for those planning to head out for the second week.

The season usually begins the first Monday before Thanksgiving, giving hunters three days before the holiday to hunt. He said many people come in from out of state to hunt because of family tradition.

"A lot of it, I think, has to do with family," Murphy said. "People who grew up here but moved out of state for better opportunities come back to hunt.

"That and the deer hunting is just so good here in West Virginia."

He said hunters likely would be running into distracted deer as they head into the woods. Because the season opens the Monday before Thanksgiving and the holiday is earlier this year, hunters will be catching deer closer to peak deer rut, or mating season.

Murphy could not say Monday if any record bucks had been killed. He said when reached by phone that no injuries or incidents had been reported.

He also expects this to be a good year for the Hunters Helping the Hungry program, which provides venison for needy families.  

Hunters can donate a portion or all of a deer or simply donate money to the program. The meat is donated to certified processors, who turn it into two-pound packages of ground venison. The Mountaineer Food Bank and the Huntington Area Food Bank distribute the meat to qualified food pantries.

 The program, which is in its 21st year, functions on monetary donations alone and is sponsored by the Division of Natural Resources, Murphy said.

"Hunters can donate deer or dollars," he said. "A large number of them donate both."

Last year, 20,184 deer were processed, for a total of 769,582 pounds of venison for needy West Virginia families. The program also served its 1 millionth meal in 2011, Murphy said.  

Buck firearms season runs through Dec. 1 in all counties but Logan, Wyoming, Mingo and McDowell.  There is no gun season in those counties, but archers can bow-hunt there on Nov. 25.

Sunday hunting is legal on Nov. 25 in 10 counties this year. Those counties are Boone, Clay, Lincoln, Wayne, Brooke, Hancock, Marshall, Ohio, Jefferson and Wetzel.

Monday also kicked off gun season for black bears in Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Raleigh and Wyoming counties.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.craig@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.

 


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