Deer hunters brave the cold in search of prey

PARKERSBURG – The cold weather Monday provided a good start for hunters out for the first day of the buck firearms season for deer hunting.

Hunters were out early in the morning to find a good spot. Officials with the state Division of Natural Resources are estimating approximately 330,000 licensed hunters will be in West Virginia’s woods during this season, which runs from Nov. 25-Dec. 7.

Jim Conrad of Ripley and his son Joshua were out at 7 a.m. in a location a couple of miles from West Virginia University at Parkersburg, where they were able to bag a six-point buck with a youth 4-10 Shotgun. They checked the deer at the 47 Carry-Out near WVU-P.

Both of them were new to deer hunting.

“We did good,” Jim Conrad said. “It was chilly but not too cold. We were only out there for about an hour and a half. We didn’t get too cold before we were finished.”

Jim Conrad admitted their deer was not a big trophy, but they are planning to get it processed and eat the meat.

Joshua Conrad, 13, liked being able to get outside.

“It was pretty fun out there,” he said. “Just learning about everything out there is fun to me.”

Both said they plan to continue hunting in the future.

“We will do it again next year,” Jim Conrad said.

DNR District wildlife biologist Jeff McCrady said they were seeing good participation from hunters on Monday.

The colder weather is ideal for deer hunting where the last few years have seen rain and warmer temperatures.

“This is the way deer hunting should be,” McCrady said. “People seem to be having a good time.”

With the cooler temperatures, the deer keep better outside and the hunters can take their time getting them in.

DNR officials are doing their yearly weighing of the yearling bucks and comparing it to previous years harvests.

“We have the dates going back to the ’60s,” McCrady said. “We are looking to see if the size of the deer is changing over time.”

The local deer habitat has changed over the years, becoming a lot more mature.

Some areas need clear cuttings to get locations back to the brush stage that deer like, McCrady said.

The weighing helps determine the health of the herd and if the nutrition is available to adequately sustain it.

Harry Hickel got a six-point buck with a .300 Magnum rifle on his farm around W.Va. 47 and Walker Road.

He too started around 7 a.m. and was out for a half-hour before bagging the buck.

“I have hunted all of my life,” he said. “I hunt for the meat. We eat the meat. There is nothing wasted.”

Hickel has five sons and all hunted on Monday. He said it was all in preparation of the Thanksgiving holiday and beyond.

“We have turkey at Thanksgiving and have deer all year round,” he said with a chuckle.

A clerk at the 47 Carry-Out said they had checked 19 deer Monday before 1 p.m.

A clerk at James Country Store outside of Lubeck said they had 63 deer checked by 4:45 p.m.

At Pifers Service Center in Mineral Wells, they had more than 60 deer checked in by 5 p.m., said cashier Beth Curry.

“It was slow in the morning, but it got busier as the day went on,” she said.

Pifers saw many 8-point bucks and a few 10-point bucks.

Curry was expecting more deer to come in after 5 p.m. as it is getting darker and hunters were coming out of the woods.

Deer hunters spend an estimated $230 million in West Virginia, much of it in the rural areas of the state that depend upon the deer seasons for a large portion of their annual income, DNR officials said.

In 2012, hunters in West Virginia harvested 56,276 bucks during the two-week firearms season, which is six percent less than the 2011 harvest of 60,157 and is six percent below the previous five-year average of 60,236.

DNR officials are forecasting the buck firearms season harvest should be similar to the 2012 harvest and the overall deer harvest should be higher in 2013. Officials noticed in 2012 an increase in the number of large antlered deer being checked in.

Linda Nulter was able to bag a seven-point buck with a 708 mm rifle on their farm in the Goose Creek-Walker area.

“We religiously hunt every year,” she said of her and her husband, Richard. “It helps with the grocery bill.

“We put it all to good use, the hide and everything.”

There is a lot of good meat they will get from the deer. They had taken the animal hides and had those processed to make gloves and coats.

“It is really nice leather,” Nulter said. “Any of the scrap meat that isn’t any good for us, I cook and feed to our large dogs, a Great Dane and Great Bernese.

“That is high eating for them. It helps get them ready for a hard winter.”

Nulter has hunted since she was 21 years old when she first met her husband in the early 1970s.

“I wanted to hunt all of my life,” she said. “My dad hunted when he was younger and got out of it, but he wasn’t against it.

“It was something that I always wanted to do. We have acreage and now we can.”

Hunting has been a family activity for them for years.

“It is good times,” Nulter said. “It brings family together.

“It is just a lot of good memories year after year. It is another one of the many things that unifies our family.”