CLARKSBURG — West Virginia’s woods will see hunters by the thousands on Monday as the state’s much-anticipated firearm buck season opens.
Before making their way to their favorite tree stand, hunting blind or cabin, however, hunters will ensure they have the appropriate supplies, clothing and equipment. Some will fuel up their vehicle on their way to a designated spot, while others will stop at a convenience store to get food for what may be a long day.
All that hunting-related activity generates millions of dollars for the state’s economy each year, according to Paul Johansen, chief of the Wildlife Resources Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
“Hunting is huge in West Virginia. Hunting alone puts somewhere north of $240 million into the state economy. It’s absolutely huge, and most of the money is spent in small rural communities. I’m not an economist, but from what economists tell me, those dollars are spent in communities, creating multiplier effects,” he said.
Deer hunting in particular is at least partially responsible for keeping small, family-owned “mom and pop” businesses open — just because of the dollars that come in during the fall hunting season, he added.
During the first week of firearm buck season, more than 250,000 hunters will take to the woods. They’re required to purchase a base hunting license, and many also opt for purchasing tags allowing them to harvest additional bucks.
Hunters are allowed to harvest two deer a day, only one being an antlered buck.
Resident hunters wanting the opportunity to harvest an additional buck must buy the Class RG stamp before the start of the season, which costs $21, unless they are harvesting the buck on their own property, which doesn’t require the stamp.
Nonresident hunters, who Johansen said would number between 30,000 and 40,000, must purchase an RRG stamp for $43 before the beginning of the season, and it must be accompanied by the Class E, AAH, AAHJ or XXJ license.
All the licensing and stamp fees add to the millions generated during the season, Johansen said.
For resident and nonresident hunters alike, West Virginia offers a great opportunity each year, which is why many return, hunt and spend.
“For those who have had an opportunity to hunt, it is usually a pretty positive experience. In particular, what makes West Virginia unique is the large amount of public land for residents and nonresidents alike to hunt on, wildlife management areas and a million plus acres of national forest land. Those offer great hunting opportunities,” he said.
Hemorrhagic disease, a disease that was reported in parts of West Virginia and throughout the Southeast, causing deer to behave strangely, will not be an issue, and according to Johansen, never was a large problem.
“The disease has disappeared from the West Virginia landscape since the first frost and the disease has no potential impact to humans,” he said.
The disease, he added, is quite common in the region, and even if meat from an infected deer would be eaten by a human, it would still be safe.
“This year we had it show up in central part of state in 15 counties, but it usually doesn’t generate wide spread die-offs, just isolated pockets. The population bounces back quickly,” he said.
This year’s harvest, he said, is expected to be successful.
“We would expect the harvest to come in somewhere between 40,000 to 45,000 animals. Conditions are excellent this year, and several really nice deer are being reported. I think the big unknown with buck season is knowing what the weather is like,” he said.
Gary Foster, assistant chief of Game Management for the Division of Natural Resources, shared Johansen’s sentiment.
“Hunters should enjoy a great deer season in 2019,” he said.