SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Preliminary counts indicate West Virginia hunters harvested 112,384 white-tailed deer during the recently completed bucks firearms, antlerless, muzzleloader, archery, crossbow, and youth/Class Q/Class XS deer seasons, according to Paul Johansen, chief of the Division of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Resources Section. This year’s total harvest was 19 percent below the 2015 deer harvest of 138,493 and 15 percent below the five-year average of 132,466.
A breakdown of the combined 2016 deer seasons reveals 46,071 bucks harvested during the traditional buck firearm season, 32,508 antlerless deer taken during all antlerless firearm hunting opportunities, 28,808 deer harvested by bows and crossbows, and 4,997 deer taken by muzzleloader hunters.
Antlerless Deer Season
The 2016 antlerless deer season harvest, which includes the youth/Class Q/Class XS deer season, was 18 percent less than in 2015 and 26.5 percent below the five-year average of 44,239. “It is important to note that the antlerless harvest is the key component to any deer management strategy, as it controls the future deer population,” said Johansen. Hunters are reminded that on March 13 and 14, 2017, the DNR will hold 12 public meetings across the state to gather comments on proposed fall 2017 antlerless deer hunting seasons in each of the 51 counties where firearms deer hunting is permitted. The 2016 top 10 counties are: Preston (1,535), Upshur (1,485), Lewis (1,292), Mason (1,269), Jackson (1,224), Ritchie (1,215), Wood (1,126), Roane (1,034), Harrison (972), and Braxton (854).
Muzzleloader Deer Season
The 2016 muzzleloader harvest of 4,997 was 3 percent below the 2015 harvest of 5,178, and 21 percent below the five-year average of 6,344. The top 10 counties are Randolph (243), Nicholas (232), Preston (217), Upshur (185), Lewis (168), Jackson (158), Braxton (157), Mason (153), Wood (141), and Webster (139).
Archery and Crossbow Deer Season
The bow and crossbow hunter’s take of 28,808 deer was 11 percent less than the 2015 archery season harvest of 32,540, and four percent above the five-year average archery season harvest of 27,596. Archery harvests are inversely correlated to hard mast crops. The below-average acorn crop in 2015, followed by a better acorn crop in 2016, likely contributed to the lower 2016 harvest; however, the proportion of the harvest taken using a crossbow increased in 2016 over that recorded in 2015. The 2016 top 10 counties are: Preston (1,365), Randolph (975), Wood (945), Kanawha (921), Upshur (867), Wyoming (867), Mason (791), Jackson (785), Nicholas (765), and Raleigh (738).