Late Season Hunting Opportunities
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources reminds hunters that late season hunting opportunities are available throughout the Mountain State until the end of February, according to Curtis I. Taylor, Chief of the Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Section.
Poor mast crops and a hard winter last year contributed to poorer survival rates and physical condition of small game species. Nesting success and survival of game bird poults, such as ruffed grouse, unfortunately were not very good this past summer due to an abundance of early summer rain. Numbers are down around West Virginia and grouse will be a bit harder to find this year. Some early season bird hunters have reported finding a few pocket areas with several grouse flushed. Mast conditions for soft mast are good around the state this year.
Cottontail rabbit hunters should find similar to slightly better numbers this year compared to last year. The abundant rainfall that hurt game bird brood production resulted in more cover for rabbits. Hunters should be reminded that much of this cover is gone by late season and they will need to hunt in very thick cover to find good cottontail numbers.
While cottontail rabbits and game birds occur statewide in varying degrees of abundance, the snowshoe hare occupies a very specific niche of habitat. Hunters seeking hares turn to the rhododendron and red spruce thickets above 3,500 feet in elevation on the Monongahela National Forest . Hares are numerous and are an exciting challenge for dogs and hunters. Deep snows can seriously affect the access to good hunting areas. Hunters are advised to check on weather and road conditions prior to hunting.
West Virginia offers approximately 1.6 million acres of quality public land that is available to late season hunting opportunists. In the eastern region, more than one million acres are located inside the borders of the Monongahela, George Washington, and Jefferson National Forests . In addition, more than 370,000 acres of Wildlife Management Areas and State Forests are distributed through the State. These areas range in size from a hundred acres to several thousand acres of prime, public hunting land. A Guide to Wildlife Management Areas in West Virginia describes each of these areas, and is available at all DNR offices or online at www.wvdnr.gov . The free brochure contains information on location, acreage, topography, vegetation, facilities, and primary wildlife species occurring on the area.
"Late season small game hunting is an excellent opportunity to get outdoors and get some exercise during the winter months," said Taylor . "Scent conditions are often excellent for bird dogs and rabbit hounds during this time of year. The hunting for game birds and rabbits can be the finest of the year, provided that snow conditions are not too deep. The late season hunt can also provide many tasty meals for the family as both game birds and rabbit are noted table fare."
For complete information on the late season dates, hunters should obtain a copy of the 2003-2004 West Virginia Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary. This brochure is available at all Division of Natural Resources' offices and license agents across the state, or visit the DNR Web site at www.wvdnr.gov . Hunters may also purchase hunting licenses at agents around the state or online at www.wvhunt.com .
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