WV hunters kill 131,444 deer, 1,233 turkeys in 2012 - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV hunters kill 131,444 deer, 1,233 turkeys in 2012

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West Virginia hunters harvested fewer deer but more turkeys in 2012 when compared to 2011, according to information from the Division of Natural Resources.

According to a news release from the DNR, preliminary counts of game checking tags indicate West Virginia hunters harvested a total of 131,444 white-tailed deer during the recently completed bucks-only, antlerless, muzzleloader, archery and youth/Class Q/Class XS deer seasons.

The year's total harvest was three percent below the 2011 deer harvest of 135,696, according to Director Frank Jezioro, who said a total of 56,658 bucks, 45,169 antlerless season deer, 24,571 bow-killed deer and 5,046 muzzleloader season deer were taken during the 2012 season.

The annual turkey season, however, saw an increase in the number of birds killed.

Curtis I. Taylor, chief of the Wildlife Resources Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said in a news release the 2012 harvest was 4 percent higher than the 1,186 birds checked in during the 2011 fall season and three percent higher than the five-year average.  Three districts saw increases above average harvests, while the other three districts had slight decreases. 

"Fall wild turkey harvests are highly influenced by hunter participation, annual recruitment of young turkeys and hard mast conditions," said Taylor. "The above-average but scattered acorn crop of 2012 concentrated birds in areas of abundant mast, making those birds somewhat more susceptible to harvest, especially in our non-traditional, fall hunting counties."

Top turkey hunting counties for 2012 were Greenbrier (139), Nicholas (98), Randolph (91), Monroe (89) and Summers (71).  The traditional fall hunting counties, including Preston County, the Eastern Panhandle and the mountain regions of the state, accounted for 56 percent of the total fall kill, which was almost identical to last year. However, these same traditional fall counties contributed only 19 percent of the total spring wild turkey hunting season harvest in 2012. 

In terms of the 2012 deer season, the antlerless deer season was 12 percent above 2011 and 1 1/2 percent below the five-year average of 45,845. 

"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 Jezioro. "Many counties had liberalized antlerless hunting seasons in 2012, including 10 counties that required hunters to harvest an antlerless deer before harvesting a second buck with a gun or bow, and a new October antlerless firearms season in all open counties.  These modifications to the antlerless season structure led to an increase in the harvest and will ensure that deer populations do not exceed management objectives." 

The top 10 counties for antlerless deer were: Preston (2,343), Mason (2,026), Jackson (1,759), Wood (1,608), Lewis (1,575), Upshur (1,569), Harrison (1,511), Ritchie (1,391), Monongalia (1,340) and Randolph (1,325).

In terms of the muzzleloader season, the 2012 harvest of 5,046 was 36 percent less than the 2011 harvest of 7,873 and was 37 percent below the five-year average of 7,969. The top 10 counties were: Preston (237), Randolph (230), Nicholas (219), Braxton (216), Webster (203), Jackson (173), Fayette (170), Upshur (160), Lewis (157) and Mason (147).

West Virginia bow hunters harvested 24,571 deer, which was 10 percent below the 2011 harvest of 27,404 and 10 percent below the five-year average harvest of 27,339. The top 10 counties were: Preston (1,089), Kanawha (863), Raleigh (796), Randolph (791), Monongalia (769), Wyoming (765), Logan (739), Greenbrier (727), Fayette (707) and Nicholas (693).