The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is considering several changes to the state's deer hunting regulations in an effort to get hunters to kill more female deer.
The changes were discussed at several meetings in March across West Virginia, and the DNR is expected to announce the changes in July. The plan has been called a "major retooling" by DNR leaders.
Hunting is the main way to control the deer population. By allowing hunters to take more female deer, the DNR hopes to slow the population grow, especially in West Virginia's northern panhandle and along the Interstate 79 corridor between Morgantown and Weston.
The proposed changes to the deer hunting regulations include requiring hunters in counties considered to have a high deer population to kill an antlerless deer before they would be allowed to take a second buck. This change would also affect archery and firearms seasons.
Another change would be to limit hunters to kill three antlerless deer in all counties or parts of counties that currently have a two- or four-deer limit.
The DNR also is proposing to allow hunters to kill up to two deer per day, as long as at least of one of those is antlerless.
Non-resident hunters could be allowed to apply for antlerless deer permits in counties and on public areas where the state offers limited permits.
The DNR also wants to establish a statewide urban deer hunt bag limit of seven deer, which would be seven antlerless or a combination that would include up to two antlered bucks. Cities would be allowed to open their special seasons as early as the second Saturday in September.
The opening day of archery season would be moved from Oct. 1 to the Monday that falls closest to Oct. 1, meaning the season could start as early as Sept. 28 in some years.
The DNR is looking to create a new three-day firearm season for antlerless deer that would be held in late October. The current September antlerless deer archery season would be closed under a new proposal.
The September antlerless deer muzzleloader season in September would be shortened from six days to three days. The December muzzleloader season would be moved forward by a week, along with moving the December antlerless deer season back by a week and reducing it from six days to three.
State officials blame the overpopulation of deer on the increase of forests in the state. DNR officials estimate that about 79 percent of state land is considered to be forested, which is not considered to be a good habitat for deer herds because fully grown forests do not have the life-sustaining vegetation needed by the deer. DNR officials said because timber companies are decreasing the amount of land be clear-cut, the deer do not have the openings in the forests they need.