Preliminary results of the 2011 buck gun season are finally out, and I do not know who is more surprised - the wildlife biologists of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the general population of our state who do not hunt, or me.
According to these reports, nimrods took 59,835 antlered deer during this two-week season which ran from November 21 through December 3, 2011. This is more than a 37 percent increase over the 43,461 harvest in 2010. "I personally didn't expect it to be this high" said DNR Game Management Chief Paul Johansen.
Everyone knows the weather for the first three days of the first week was miserable. One or two days during the second week, the weather was also nothing to brag about. If the weather had been fit to be outdoors during these days, chances are the buck harvest figures would be higher.
Wildlife biologists and managers are also noticing that more mature or older-aged bucks are being taken this year. Contributing factors for this could be the better than average acorn crop in 2010, and the deer densities appear to be more in balance with the habitat in many areas. Division of Natural Resources Director Frank Jezioro says, "Too many deer on a given track of land will result in loss of body weight, reduction in antler development, decrease in reproduction, and sometimes death due to starvation during the winter months."
More hunters appear to be checking in their deer than in the past few years. This is something some deer hunters would never think of doing a few years ago. This has to be another factor that needs to be taken into consideration.
The southern counties and those along the Ohio River had the largest percentage increases. For example, Mercer County, which is located along the southern state border, had 669 bucks checked in for this year. This is up from 362 in 2010, or 84 percent.
The top five counties for the 2011 buck season are as follows: Preston (2,162), Randolph (2,039), Jackson (1,960), Mason (1,931), and Greenbrier (1,803). While these figures are a welcomed improvement over last year, they are nowhere near to being a state record. The record for the two-week buck gun season is 99,375, set in 2001. The Randolph County harvest was 2,039 bucks which is up from 1,858 in 2010, or 9.7 percent. In 2002, 3,871 bucks were taken during the two-week season. While I am not sure, this could be the record for Randolph County.
In counties of local interest, the buck harvest for 2011 include: Barbour 1,367 up from 875, or 56 percent; Grant 1,255 up from 959, or 30 percent; Lewis 1,572 up from 1,130, or 39 percent; Pendleton 1,423 up from 893, or 59 percent; Pocahontas 1,111 up from 1100, or 1 percent; Tucker 726 down from 743, or 2 percent; Upshur 1,596 up from 1088, or 46 percent; and Webster 1,061 up from 807, or 31 percent. I really do not think that any county buck harvest records were broken.
My worrying about being skunked for this years' deer season came to a halt on December 9 about 8:00 am. I had not been out of my vehicle 15 minutes when I had a nice doe in the woods next to Stalnaker Run Road. While I was field dressing my deer, I nicked my left thumb with my knife. This is when I stopped field dressing the deer. When I got the carcass to Coles, Bill gave me a sharp scolding for not finishing the job.
I have known Bill Cole and his wife for several years. The couple run a very clean operation, and they take pride in their work.
I had to finish cleaning the carcass before they would accept it for processing. Fortunately, the laceration on my left thumb did not require any stitches.