There is probably no single hunting season more controversial among all the deer hunters than the antlerless deer gun season. I remember at a sectional meeting back in the 1980s when a "hot-head" stood up and asked this question to the wildlife biologists, "Just how long are we going to have this stupid doe season?" I don't remember what the answer was in reply, but it was most likely something like - when the total deer population diminishes to where we can no longer have it.
In 1974, the State legislature enacted a special class N license for antlerless deer hunting. This permitted the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to conduct an antlerless hunting season after the regular two-week buck gun season. That year six counties, all located in the lower Eastern panhandle, were going to be open to this special limited antlerless deer season for two days (Friday and Saturday).
When this program was first implemented, a lot of pessimistic hunters were saying this would be a disaster to the deer herd. Other hunters were saying that too many button or young bucks would be killed with this set-up to where we would not be able to have a buck gun season in just a few years.
Well now, we did not have any disaster because the deer herd continued to expand to where other counties were opened to the antlerless deer season. For example, in 1989, thirty-seven counties opened to the antlerless deer season.
This year, 26 counties and a part of one other are open to unlimited resident and nonresident antlerless hunting. All antlerless deer must be taken on a class N or NN stamp or hunting license which must be accompanied by a base resident or nonresident license.
Pocahontas and Randolph counties will have limited antlerless hunting and only on private land. The DNR will only be giving out 300 licenses for both counties. Anyone wanting to hunt in either one of these counties must apply by August 20 on the special computer selection card obtainable at the Elkins Operations Center. Tucker County is also limited this year. The DNR will be giving out 400 licenses that must be applied for on the computer selection card.
In other counties of local interest, Barbour County is open to unlimited antlerless hunting from November 22 and 23 on private land only and from November 24 to December 11 and December 29 to December 31 on public and private land. The maximum season bag limit is two deer in this county. All deer must be taken on a class N or NN stamp or by a resident landowner hunting on his/her own land. Pendleton County is open to unlimited hunting on private land only, with the same dates as Barbour County. The season limit is one deer in this county. Harrison and Lewis Counties are open to unlimited antlerless hunting with the same dates as Barbour County with a bag limit of four. However in Lewis County, two wildlife management areas (Stonecoal and Stonewall Jackson) must be applied for on the computer selection card. All hunters must remember that all antlerless deer must be taken on a valid class N or NN license.
The antlerless deer season we now have has never been a disaster to the deer herd, yet there are still many male hunters who think that it is unmanly to shoot a female deer. This kind of thinking is just a lot of nonsense.
I remember back in 2003 when Randolph County had buck and antlerless seasons opening on the same day. That year, I said to myself 'well now, if I see antlers, I can get it, or if I see venison, I can take it, whichever comes first.' On that day, I was hunting with a 100-year-old 30/40 Krag rifle using special handloads I had fixed up for that rifle. At about 8:30 a.m., a large doe jumped out in front of me about 30 yards away. I put the sights on her and let drive. That was my deer meat for that year.