In another week, this year's hunting season will be in full swing. I have already had a few people ask me if I have been squirrel hunting yet. My answer is, no, it's just too early. The weather for this coming weekend does not look encouraging so, like last week, I will most likely be watching the televised West Virginia-Maryland football game.
The deer archery season will come in next Saturday and be in for more than three full months. The maximum season bag limit is three antlered deer during the archery and firearms seasons combined. In select counties, archery hunters are going to be required to take an antlerless deer before they take a second antlered deer. Randolph and any of the counties that adjoin Randolph are not on this list.
The squirrel season is a great time for archery and gun hunters to scout the places they might like to deer hunt. I have often said there are really no bad places to deer hunt in Randolph County and that some of the best deer hunting is on public land.
In Randolph County, we are indeed fortunate to have more than 200,000 acres of land open to public hunting and other outdoor activities. While hunting on public acreage, there is always the possibility of running into other people who enjoy the great outdoors as much as anyone else, but doing some other activity, (backpacking, bicycling, bird watching, hiking, etc.) This happened to me some years ago when I was antlerless hunting in the McClintic Wildlife Management Area in Mason County. A bicyclist came upon me while I was on a old tram road that was closed to motor vehicles. We talked for a moment, then the gentleman went his way and I went mine. There was no problem.
Just remember, there are many people who detest sport hunting and will be quick to let hunters know this. These people have just as much right to be on public land as anyone. However, they do not have any right to make noise or be a nuisance in an effort to disrupt anyone who is legally hunting, fishing or trapping.
If and when this happens, the sportsman needs to make contact with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Police at once, using a cell phone. The activity the anti-hunters are doing is illegal. By all means, the sportsman should not attempt to take matters into their own hands. This will only make mattes worse and could end up being additional trouble for the hunter.
We all know hunters have to have in their possession the written permission from the landowner to hunt on private land that is fenced, enclosed or posted. We also need to emphasize hunting ethics on public acreage. How individual hunters conduct themselves during certain encounters can determine the success and/or enjoyment of the hunt. It can also leave a lasting impression on others who are using the same public lands.
There are many ways of being ethical public land hunters. The hunter needs to make sure they know and understand the regulations for the public land on which they are hunting.
Most of the regulations are the same, but a few may vary for a particular location.
Always be respectful of other hunters. Do not try to hunt in the same area as someone else. If one is hunting and just happens to meet another hunter, proceed with caution and courtesy. This has happened to me more than once.
Dispose of carcasses and hides from harvested game in a lawful manner. It is unlawful to leave deer carcasses on public land and along public roads.
Try to make a serious attempt to leave the area in better condition than it was found.
Naturally, don't leave trash; but if trash is found left by others, pick it up and dispose of it properly. For the past several years, I have made it a habit of picking up my fired shotgun shells and other shotgun shells left behind.
Show respect for wildlife by taking only clean killing shots. Quickly retrieve and properly handle your game.
The old saying "first come, first served" applies in many situations when it comes to using public land in this state. All sportsmen and women still need to remember public land is for everyone.
Outdoor enthusiasts need to treat others using the same land in the same manner they would like to be treated.