Most of the information in this week's column is coming from the annual Big Game Bulletin provided by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
Mountain State bear hunters harvested a record 2,069 bears during the combined bow and gun seasons. Gun hunters took 1,590 (937 males; 653 females), and bow hunters took 479 (292 males; 187 females). West Virginia black bears are on the increase, and most hunters think this record will be broken on an annual basis for the next few years.
The state total wild boar harvest in 2008 was 14. This is down from 22 in 2007. The main reason for fewer animals in the four counties (Boone, Logan, Raleigh and Wyoming) open to boar hunting is habitat destruction. Surface mining and logging continue to decrease the oak-hickory forests favored by wild boar.
The 2008 spring gobbler harvest was 9,929. This is slightly down from the harvest of 9,965 in 2007. The record spring gobbler harvest is 16,770, set in 1995. The fall harvest was 1,206. This is down 21 percent from the fall harvest of 1,511 in 2007. The record fall harvest is 5,826, set in 1993.
The 2008 deer kill was 163,603 for all of the seasons combined. While this is not near the record of 255,356 set in 2002, it is the 15th largest total deer harvest in West Virginia.
The bow harvest was 31,408. This is an increase of 14.5 percent from the 2007 harvest of 27,440. The record bow harvest is 37,144 set in 2002.
The 2008 muzzleloader season harvest was 8,609, which is an increase of 12 percent from the 2007 harvest of 7,658. The state record muzzleloader harvest is 17,458 set in 2002.
The 2008 anterless kill was 56,221. This is up from 43,626 in 2007, or 29 percent. The record anterless kill is 104,199, set in 2002.
The total buck harvest in 2008 was 67,365, which is slightly up from the 2007 harvest of 67,213. The record buck gun kill is 99,375 set in 2001. I think that the buck harvest would have been much higher if the weather had been more cooperative during the two weeks of buck season.
There may not be as many deer as there was in the 1990s, but the numbers are far better than what they were in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
The 2009 deer seasons look favorable; the DNR proposes that 39 counties and portions of six additional counties be open to anterless deer hunting.
I stated in last week's column that Randolph County will most likely be open to anterless deer hunting only on private acreage on a limited basis. This means there will be no anterless hunting in any of the wildlife management areas, state or national forests. Individual hunters will most likely have to apply for Randolph County on the computer selection card and then chosen by the DNR computer.