PARKERSBURG - Preliminary numbers show West Virginia hunters harvested a total of 56,173 bucks during the recent two-week buck firearms season.
The season ran from Nov. 19 through Dec. 1, according to Frank Jezioro, director of West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
Overall, officials found the 2012 season brought in seven percent less bucks than the 2011 harvest, which brought in just over 60,000 deer.
Jerry Westfall, assistant district wildlife biologist for District 6, said the high mast, or feed, for deer this year meant low travel and less chance for hunters to shoot.
"The deer were not in open areas like they could be," he said. "When you have a high mast year with low travel you tend to have slightly less harvest."
The largest percentage decreases occurred in the western and central parts of the West Virginia. Wood County harvested about 1,400 bucks, while District 6 - which includes Wood and other local counties - had totals for this year just over 10,000.
Early research found the top ten counties this season for buck harvest were Preston, Greenbrier, Randolph, Mason, Jackson, Hampshire, Monroe, Ritchie, Wetzel and Hardy counties.
The state's harvest was 27th among all recorded antlered buck firearm seasons.
Officials found the dry weather conditions were good for hunter participation this year, but made moving in the woods less than stealthy. Deer densities that were more in balance with the habitat in many areas, combined with better-than-average acorn crop allowed deer to be found in open fields less frequently, making this year's deer season challenging for most hunters.
Residual access problems associated with Hurricane Sandy, such as downed trees blocking forest roads, may have hindered the ability of some buck hunters to reach their favorite hunting spots, especially in some of the high mountain counties, officials said.
Wildlife biologists will analyze data from the combined 2012 deer seasons (buck, antlerless, archery and muzzleloader) before making appropriate recommendations for next year's deer hunting seasons.
These recommendations will be available for public review at 12 regulations meetings scheduled for March 18 and 19, 2013.
Jezioro reminds hunters that several days of deer hunting opportunity still remain for 2012. The traditional antlerless deer season in selected counties on both public and private land opens Thursday and runs through Saturday. The Youth, Class Q/QQ and Class XS deer season (antlerless deer only) will be open on Dec. 26-27 in any county with a firearms deer season, and will be followed by the reopening of Class N/NN antlerless deer season on Dec. 28-31 in 48 counties or portions of counties.
See the 2012 to 2013 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary or visit the DNR Web site at www.wvdnr.gov for county and area listings.