PARKERSBURG - Local hunters and deer-checking stations in Wood County reported a good start Monday to West Virginia's annual deer gun season.
Sunny weather and good conditions in the woods contributed to hunters seeing a number of deer in the local area, with dozens being harvested.
Ed Cain, with Cain's Muzzleloading near Boaz, said there were four or five hunters waiting to check their deer when the gun store opened its doors for business Monday morning.
Photo by Wayne Towner
Adam Ward, of Marietta, tags a 10-point buck he checked in Monday afternoon at Pifer’s Service Station in Mineral Wells.
Photo by Wayne Towner
Dawson Clevenger, 12, of Parkersburg, holds the eight-point buck he shot Monday, his first deer.
The turnout through the day at Cain's was better than the 2011 season, Cain said, primarily due to the rainy and foggy weather on last year's first day of gun season.
"Last year, it was rainy and miserable stuff, but it's been a good day today," he said Monday afternoon. He had checked in an equal mix of does and bucks during the day.
Cain said the gun store saw most of its business in the last few days leading up to Monday's opening day, as hunters purchased supplies and ammunition, or brought rifles in to be sighted or repaired.
Bob Hornbeck, of Washington, W.Va., was hunting Monday in the Bogle Ridge area near Mineral Wells and brought in a six-point buck to be checked at Pifer's Service Station in Mineral Wells. He said it was a good morning to be hunting.
"There was a lot of movement, a lot of movement in the woods," he said. It was his first time hunting in that area.
Mineral Wells resident Adam Ward was also checking in a deer at Pifer's on Monday afternoon. In the area where he was hunting, Ward said he saw more does than bucks, but he was able to bring in a 10-point buck.
"It was a pretty good day, except the coyotes were chasing around the deer a little bit," he said. The coyotes he saw were keeping the deer in motion and making it hard for him to get close.
Beth Pifer, with Pifer's Service Station, said the check station at the Interstate 77/West Virginia 14 intersection saw a lot of hunters bringing in deer Monday morning and afternoon. During the morning, more than 16 deer had been checked in and the number had grown to nearly 60 by the early afternoon, with more expected.
"Our biggest has been a nine-point - and he was a big nine-point - he was nice. He was taken in Wirt County," she said.
While most of the hunters have been men, Pifer said there were also some women and children of various ages participating in Monday's first day of hunting.
"The youngest so far has been 9 years old and he got an eight-point," she said Monday afternoon.
State officials talk each year about the positive economic impact brought to West Virginia during hunting season. Pifer agrees with that assessment.
The service center doesn't earn any money from the deer checking itself, but it does see a lot of business from the hunters who come in and take the opportunity to buy food, drinks, fuel and other supplies.
"We've sold a lot of food, a lot of beverages," he said.
Twelve-year-old Dawson Clevenger of Parkersburg checked in his eight-point buck at Reese's Country Store at Deerwalk Monday afternoon. He said he was happy about getting his first deer.
His father, Shawn Clevenger of Belmont, said the conditions they saw in the woods were good for opening day. He didn't see any coyotes on Monday, but has captured images on game cameras recently.
"It was a little better year this year, weather-wise," he said of Monday's conditions.
Roger Park, owner of Reese's Country Store, said more than 60 hunters had checked in deer by early afternoon and he expected to see a rush of hunters bringing in deer as it got dark.
"On the first day, people really try to hold out for the bucks unless they're kids with a doe tag or first-deer types of situations," Park said. He expects a good week due to the positive weather forecast for the next several days.
Across West Virginia, some 330,000 deer hunters took to the woods Monday for the start of a two-week gun season that the Division of Natural Resources predicts will be slightly better than last year.
Hunters bagged 60,157 bucks in the 2011 season, a 38 percent increase over the previous year, said Curtis Taylor, head of the wildlife resources section. This year, every region should see a similar or higher harvest.
Good reproduction and a mild winter last year have translated to an ample supply of 18-month-old animals, and mast conditions are favorable. Taylor said the DNR has been conducting spotlight counts in counties and seen plenty of deer with big racks.
In West Virginia, the November firearms season opens the Monday before Thanksgiving every year, so the date can be as early as Nov. 19 or as late as Nov. 25. This is one of the earlier years, and that means hunters are heading out closer to the peak deer rut. Hunters have an advantage when deer are active and distracted.
Hunters are limited to two bucks during gun season and three does a year, whether during archery or firearms season. Buck season runs through Dec. 1 and is open in every county but Logan, Mingo, McDowell and Wyoming.
Sunday buck hunting is legal only on Nov. 25 and only on private land in 10 counties this year. They are Boone, Brooke, Clay, Hancock, Jefferson, Lincoln, Marshall, Ohio, Wayne and Wetzel.
Though there is no gun season in Logan, Mingo, McDowell and Wyoming counties, the DNR says archers can bow-hunt in those areas on Nov. 25.
Hunters who want to donate meat to food pantries through the Hunters Helping the Hungry program can visit the DNR website for information or call 304-558-2771. Mountaineer and Huntington Food Banks distribute the venison.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)