Field Notes

The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources has released preliminary numbers on the recently completed Gun Buck Season, and it appears that West Virginia hunters had a good year. A total of 66,374 antlered deer were harvested during the firearms season, an increase of 77 percent over the 2014 take. Locally the numbers were not quite as good as 1,036 were checked in for Pocahontas County, about 25 percent better than the 831 taken in 2014 and just about right on the five-year average of 1,029. Randolph County was also up by 32 percent over last year with a total of 1,705. Greenbrier County was up by 37 percent at 1,884 bucks taken. Our home DNR region, District 3 – comprised of Pocahontas, Randolph, Webster, Nicholas, Upshur, Lewis, Braxton and Clay – increased by 64 percent over 2014, with Braxton, Clay and Lewis nearly doubling last year’s totals. Oftentimes deer season can be limited by weather conditions and food availability, but in what amounted to a near “perfect storm,” weather remained cool and clear throughout the two-week season while acorns and other deer food choices remained scarce enough to keep them moving and hunting for something to eat. Many hunters may have preferred a little snow and maybe, overcast skies, but it is our nature to need something to complain about. In spite of those variables, very little shooting was heard from our camp and over on the head of Elk River. Other hunters in the northern end of the county concurred with that. Hunter numbers appear to continue to decline if you pay any attention to cars and trucks parked near hunting areas. Still, many nice bucks were taken in the southern end of the county and other hot spots around. As expected, several two and a half and three and a half year old bucks were left over from the 2014 season and were harvested this year as nice eight-points and better. So, if the state showed a 77 percent increase, where were the big numbers coming from? District 6, those counties along the Ohio River and in the west central part of the state, had a very good year as the entire district more than doubled last year’s numbers. In fact, Ritchie County led the state with 2,273 bucks taken, while Jackson County made the top five with 2,094. Talking turkey The fall turkey season, which recently ended, showed a modest increase of 18 percent over 2014, with 1,131 turkeys checked in from the 33 counties that were open for the fall season. Locally, 62 turkeys were reported in Pocahontas County, a 15 percent increase over the 54 check-ins from last year but just about right on the five-year average. This is the first year for the new electronic game checking system and the state seems to be satisfied with the results. Paul Johansen, Wildlife Resources Section Chief said “We have received many positive comments about the ease of being able to check deer and other game using the telephone, Internet or by stopping at a license agent.” December 17 through 19 and December 29 through 31 will be the last chance to get an antlerless deer. Remember that permits are needed for the doe season this year for those hunting on public land. About 300 permits were available which should somewhat limit the doe harvest this year. Resident landowners are also permitted to take a doe. What’s with the weather? The weather has certainly been unusually warm for this time of year. Forsythia were blooming earlier and it appears that dandelions haven’t stopped since summer. Spring peepers and wood frogs have both voiced their confusion, calling to see if anybody else is headed to the spring breeding ponds. According to the weather services, a very strong El Nino is to blame. After the record cold February of last winter, I think we deserve a break. I wouldn’t mind if the weather remained mild until March, and then warmed up. Dave is a telescope operator at the Green Bank Observatory and can be reached at

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