This coming Monday will be the opening day of the buck gun deer season.
At daybreak on this morning, at least a quarter of a million hunters dressed in blaze orange will be in the forests and fields trying to bag that great deer with antlers.
More West Virginians are actively involved or a part of this sporting event than any other sporting activity in this state.
This clearly indicates that deer hunting anywhere in West Virginia is big business, as well as a part of our heritage.
Here in Randolph County, all the public schools will be closed for the Thanksgiving week. For the past two weeks, I have seen many signs in front of the hotels, motels and restaurants welcoming hunters and naturally trying to get their patronage.
All the sporting goods and discount stores are fully stocked with needed hunting supplies. While I am writing this column, I have to get a new pair of hunting boots before Monday.
This is also a time to think about hunter safety. I have been talking to a few law enforcement officers with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources this week.
This year appears to be somewhat safe as far as sport hunters are concerned. There has not been any hunting accidents in District 3 which includes Randolph County. When I was talking to some people in Charleston, they told me there has only been one firearm shooting mishap. In the Eastern panhandle, an 11-year-old was shot by a 9-year-old with a .22 rifle while squirrel hunting. Another hunter was shot in the lower leg with an arrow. Both of these accidents were nonfatal.
There have been only two hunters who have fallen out of tree stands. Most of these mishaps take place during the deer bow season. There has been one fatal heart attack case in Tyler County.
I remember when reading a newspaper in the 1950s, I saw a headline in a Sunday morning newspaper that read, "Thirty-five hunters shot this year." This was prior to the deer gun season. Hunting accidents have declined dramatically in this state.
Attitudes are also changing about sport hunting throughout the state and nation.
With the many social programs to help people, fewer people hunt nowadays to feed their families. Most people are simply hunting for the recreation and the full enjoyment of being outdoors.
When I started deer hunting in 1963, it was in Mason County where there were very few deer. Today, this county, located along the Ohio River, is considered to be one of the best in the state.
More young hunters are getting active in this sport than ever before. Most of them appear to be interested in bagging a real trophy buck with a spread of 16-20 inches with at least 10 points or more.
These younger hunters would rather have a trophy deer instead of a young buck with six points or less.
This is the main reason why the WVDNR has established older deer management areas. This year, the following Wildlife Management Areas a hunter can only harvest one antlered deer that has a minimum outside antler spread of 14 inches (ear tip to ear tip) are:
n Beech Fork Lake WMA in Cabell and Wayne Counties.
n Bluestone Lake WMA in Mercer, Monroe and Summers Counties.
n Burnsville Lake WMA in Braxton County.
n Calvin Price State Forest in Pocahontas County.
n Coopers Rock State Forest in Monongalia and Preston Counties.
n McClintic WMA in Mason County.
When the DNR started this program, I was opposed to it being statewide and still am.
However, I am in favor of adding two other public places to this program. This would be Kanawha State Forest in Kanawha County and Kumbrabow State Forest in Randolph County.