The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources recently posted the 2014 Big Game Bulletin on their website. This is a compilation of game harvest statistics broken out into county and DNR districts, as well as five year results in given areas.
There is all kinds of interesting data on WV big game – turkeys, deer, bear, and even wild boars – that can be gleaned from this report. For instance, total legal harvest for all deer seasons last year – including buck gun, archery, antlerless and muzzleloader – was 1,594 in Pocahontas County and 104,707 statewide. The kill per square mile was 1.75 in Pocahontas which was less than half of the District III (including Upshur, Randolph, Webster, Nicholas, Lewis and others) average of 3.89 deer per sq. mile.
There is a plethora of information about turkeys, including spring and fall harvest totals, brood surveys and mast surveys for last year. You can find the hottest turkey hunting counties and plan spring turkey hunts accordingly. By the way, Spring Gobbler Season is quickly approaching. It opens April 27 and continues through May 23, for bearded turkeys only. Already I have seen lots of hunters getting out there to scout out prospects.
While several turkeys have been seen in the fields and roadside, it was a hard winter and there may have been a higher than usual winter mortality.
Back to the BGB, the best section of numbers may be reserved for the bears. The harvest by season in Pocahontas County was impressive: September/October – 48, Bow Hunters –19, Bear taken in Buck Gun – 13, and the December Bear – 122 for a total of 202 bears harvested last fall. Pocahontas was one of three counties (Webster and Randolph) that harvested more than 200 bears last year.
There are other stats such as non-seasonal bruin kills for marauders, road kills and illegal takes.
Pocahontas led the state here with 28 total, mostly due to bears being where they should not be, like corn fields, livestock damage and getting into garbage. The state paid out $146,471 in bear damage claims last year statewide and this is supported by the damage permits that bear hunters purchase.
There are some interesting historical numbers occasionally. For instance, did you know that there were no archery kills of bears in 1979 but 532 were taken by bow last year? The early 1980s was about the time that the compound bow began to show up and quickly became the weapon of choice. In 1980 only 47 bears were taken (by gun), compared to 2,425 total combined harvest last year.
Many of the statistics lay out a history of the last five years in the various counties making it easy to spot upturns and declines in populations. In fact the 2010 Big Game Bulletin can still be accessed from the state servers. If you print off or save that one along with the 2014 report, you can put together about 10 year histories of most counties as well as state totals. This can help enormously in trend spotting of big game populations.
The BGB can be accessed at: http://wvdnr.gov/Hunting/Hunting.shtm.
This is a 48 page PDF file that can be easily printed – you might want to print two-sided, or save it to disk. This is a great resource available from the state and may certainly help you plan future hunts.
A couple of local hunters just returned from a highly successful hunt out west. Both men have hunted bears locally for years but decided to kick it up a notch and go after a mountain lion. Shawn Taylor and Allen Taylor flew out to Utah in early March for possibly a once in a lifetime hunt. From Salt Lake City, they drove about six hours into the mountains in the southeast, at times hunting at nearly 11,000 feet in elevation.
They met up with their outfitter (http://www.biggerstaffguides.com/mountainlionhunts.htm) and guides who provided the weapons as well as a good pack of mixed Bluetick, Plott and Walker hounds for the chase. Allen said that the snow wasn’t too bad on the south face of the mountains, but once they got on top or on the north face, the snow was plenty deep and travel slowed considerably.
By traveling back roads- some of it on snowmobile- eventually they cut some cat tracks and turned the dogs loose. Unlike the local bears which sometime run for hours and may cover several miles, Shawn said the mountain lions don’t have very big lungs and treed within a few hundred yards.
Both Allen and Shawn scored nice cats on their four-day hunt. The lions were field skinned and brought out. Allen is considering having a nice rug mount made of his cat while Shawn may opt for the full body mount to add to his trophy collection. Both of them can be very proud and will have great memories from the hunt.