Hunters aim to help Blennerhassett Island with deer woes

BELPRE – Area hunters got a jump on deer season Tuesday with a special hunt that was held on Blennerhassett Island.

Around 27 deer kills were confirmed Tuesday during the special hunt, by permit only, through the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

Hunters were transported over to Blennerhassett Island from Civitan Park in Belpre at 6:30 a.m. The last hunters left the island around 6 p.m.

“Everything went well,” said DNR biologist Jeff McCrady. “Everyone had a good time.”

The controlled hunts are being conducted on the island to decrease the deer population and help increase the overall herd health. High deer populations create environmental imbalance within the parks and subject the herd to increasingly poor browse and health conditions, DNR officials said.

Blennerhassett Island Assistant Park Superintendent Miles Evenson said they filled all 52 stands that were available on the island. About half the hunters who went to the island Tuesday got a deer, he said.

“The hunters that I talked to were happy,” Evenson said. “Even if they didn’t get a deer, they enjoyed their time on the island and being able to be around all the wildlife. They were really excited to be here.”

Michael Shabdue of Scott Depot, W.Va., was among the hunters participating in Tuesday’s island hunt. Shabdue said he has been applying for the special permit for five or six years and this was the first time his name was chosen for a permit through the random drawing process used by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

“I liked it,” he said of Tuesday’s hunt. “We saw quite a few” deer on the island.

Shabdue was among the hunters who were transported to Blennerhassett Island at 7 a.m. Tuesday. He and friend Don Kiser of Charleston were each able to harvest a deer- a doe for Shabdue- and return to Civitan Park in Belpre by early Tuesday afternoon.

Kiser, using a shotgun, got a nine-point buck on Blennerhassett Island. He was on his first island deer hunt and enjoyed the experience.

“It’s a really nice place to go and hunt and have an opportunity to harvest a deer,” he said of Blennerhassett Island.

Kiser said he appreciated the help provided by park personnel, from transporting hunters to the island and back with their deer to taking them to designated locations on the island where they were permitted to hunt.

A count conducted in October found there were more than 100 deer on the island, officials said.

McCrady said with 27 kills, the average was better than half for the hunters out there.

Hunters were situated in deer stands that were spaced out for safety; hunters were required to shoot at a downward trajectory.

A lottery was held and five hunters were allowed to shoot bucks while the rest of the hunters were required to shoot an antlerless doe.

“There are still too many deer,” McCrady said.

Deer populations are eating up the new tree growth on the island.

“There is still no tree regeneration,” McCrady said. “Sycamores and poplars, new growth is not coming on.”

Another hunt is being conducted on Thursday, by permit only.