When it comes to sport hunting in West Virginia, this year is no different than any of the others. The possible exception to this could be the warmer than average temperatures we have had through the summer. The statewide squirrel season comes in today, and I have discussed this topic so much in past columns to where a few of my readers are telling me this subject is being run into the ground.
Each year, more than 300,000 hunters will take to the woods, fields, lakes, or streams in search of some quarry. All of this will create more than 5,000 jobs related to expenditures for equipment, food, lodging and transportation.
This also means more than $250 million going into the state's economy. The benefit of hunting is especially valuable because a large percentage of this revenue goes to the rural areas in our state.
Just about every true West Virginia knows Randolph is the largest county area-wise in the state. Another big plus for this county is its low population density (about 30 people per square mile).
Right here is one of the leading reasons why I fell in love with the Elkins area when I came here in 1972.
Each fall when the hunting season approaches, I look forward to seeing new country, along with hunting in some of my favorite locations I discovered the first few years I was in Randolph County. In this county alone, there are more than 215,000 acres of land open for public hunting. Slightly more than 200,000 acres of this is Monongahela National Forest. It would be very difficult for one person alone to explore all of this country on foot in a lifetime.
When it comes to hunting new country in some of the locations of this rural county, detailed topo maps are very important. They are readily available and affordable at the national forest office located on Sycamore Street in Elkins. I don't know how many of this maps I have collected over the years, but I have several.
Speaking of maps, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has just released a new list of Wildlife Management Area maps. These maps can be studied online at www.wvdnr.gov. Some of the local WMA's include:
n Big Ditch WMA - 388 acres in Webster County.
n Center Branch WMA - 974 acres in Harrison County.
n Handley WMA - 784 acres in Pocahontas County.
n Prunty Town WMA - 1,764 acres in Taylor County.
n Smoke Camp WMA - 252 acres in Lewis County.
n Stonecoal Lake WMA - 2,985 acres in Lewis & Upshur Counties.
These maps are offered to the public for personal use, and they can be downloaded with a short delay. They can also be viewed, saved, and printed by the public.
I am looking forward for additional WMA maps to be added to this list, in hopefully the not-to-distant future.
Local sportsmen and women may want to mark their calendars for September 22 and 23, 2012 for the annual national hunting and fishing day celebration at Stonewall Resort State Park.
`This weekend is designed to appeal to all outdoor enthusiasts of any age, but is especially beneficial to young hunters and anglers. One of the highlights of this year's activities will be a skilled archer, who will put on a demonstration where he shoots aspirin tablets and other targets out of the air.
I have been to this activity at least three times, and I can assure any one this is time well spent.