This past week, I was talking to a spokesman for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, Wildlife District 1, about the public shooting range located at the Pedlar Wildlife Management Area in Monongalia County.
This range had to be closed last summer due to abuse, careless shooting and vandalism.
The range is still closed, but the DNR is planning some important meetings with certain people about taking over this range. I hope in the next few weeks we will know something about what they plan to do with this heavily-used public facility.
I also was talking to a spokesman from DNR District 2 office and found out another public shooting range located on the Sleepy Creek WMA in Berkeley County had to be closed for the same reasons. This range was closed for about two years but has now reopened for trap shooting only. At the present time, there are no plans to reopen this range for pistols or rifles. The spokesman did inform me there are three private shooting ranges in the Martinsburg area where one can do some informal target shooting and perhaps sight in a deer rifle.
It's like what I have said before, these shooting ranges belong to the hunters of West Virginia. They were built with the revenue the DNR took in from the fees on the various hunting licenses. If someone is on one of these DNR shooting ranges and witnesses any careless shooting or vandalism going on, it is their duty to report this to the DNR law enforcement personnel at once.
Try to get a brief description of the individuals or number of people involved, color of clothing, vehicle make and color and/or registration plate number, etc. I realize many people don't want to get themselves legally involved in a situation like this because of the possibility of hostile retaliation by the people being reported. Just remember, this is your property being destroyed.
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According to DNR Director Frank Jezioro, the Apprentice Hunting and Trapping License (Class AH) is now available online. This new license allows residents to try hunting without completing the required hunter safety course.
"Hunter safety education can be a hurdle for novice hunters and we're really expecting to see many new hunters take advantage of this opportunity," Jezioro said. "After these novice hunters get a taste of the experience, we believe they will complete hunter safety courses and become lifetime hunters."
I have mixed viewpoints about this idea. Just about everyone I have talked to, whether they hunt or not, agrees with me the hunter safety course has reduced hunting shooting accidents to record lows. I just hope this new program does not result in an increase of these type of hunting accidents.
The Apprentice License can only be purchased online at www.wvhunt.com by individuals who have never held a hunting license. Residents who are 18 years old or older can purchase a Class AH license for $19.
This license will include the same privileges as a Class E (non-resident hunting and trapping) license. Holders of the Class AAH license will have to purchase a class CS/LE stamp for $13. Hunters may buy up to three apprentice licenses within five consecutive years. They must be supervised by a licensed hunter who is at least 18 years of age.
The DNR would like for this new idea to help recruit more first- time hunters.
Hopefully, after these novice hunters get a taste of this noble sport, they will complete the required hunter safety course and become lifetime hunters.
This is the leading reason why I have often said the special youth hunts are vital for the future of sport hunting, not only in West Virginia, but nationwide.