With the changing of the leaves and all that comes with weekends packed full of high school and college football excitement, another season is set to kickoff for outdoor enthusiasts throughout the state — hunting season.
Although West Virginia’s fall hunting season officially kicked off on Sept. 1 with Canada goose, things won’t get serious for area hunters until the month of October when small game season begins.
But before then, a special bear hunt has been put in place by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. The hunt, which was implemented because of the growing black bear population, will begin on Thursday in select counties.
“We’re trying something new this season with the early bear hunt,” said Capt. Mike Pizzino of the Division of Natural Resources. “The bear population is continously growing, so we needed to do something to try to control it.”
The youth squirrel hunt will get things started for small game hunters on Oct. 4. During this one-day event, hunters must be 14 years of age or younger and must be accompanied by a licensed adult 21 years of age or older. The accompanying adult cannot carry a weapon and must remain close to the youth to render advice and assistance. This hunt is designed for younger hunters who are just learning the ropes of the sport.
“We had a good turnout last year with a lot of younger kids going out for the youth hunt,” said Pizzino. “We are expecting a lot more kids to get out and take advantage of the youth hunt this year.”
The season picks up the following weekend (Oct. 11) when hunters of all ages can venture out to the woods in search of bushy tails.
This year’s squirrel season will run through Jan. 31.
The following weekend (Oct. 18) is the date in which many hunters anxiously await for the entire year — deer archery season. In most counties throughout the state, either a doe or buck may be taken during archery season, thus making it popular for hunters of all ages.
That same weekend, Bear archery season gets under way with licensed hunters eligible to harvest two bear with a bow or one each in the archery and firearms seasons combined, provided at least one bear must be taken in Boone, Fayette, Kanawha or Raleigh counties.
If the start of deer and archery season wasn’t enough, Ruffed Grouse season also begins on Oct. 18.
Fall turkey hunting rounds out the list of seasons for the fall as it begins on Oct. 25.
“The mast conditions are really good this year, so we’re projecting a good hunting season,” said Pizzino. “The oak hit especially good this year and there seems to be a lot of other foods out there this season.”
Although hunting season brings joy to many enthusiasts alike, it also supplies a huge boost to the state’s economy with an estimated 350,000 hunters taking to West Virginia’s woods.
Everyone can agree that this time of year brings a lot of happiness to many people, but the most important thing to remember this hunting season is to play it safe.