POINT PLEASANT — Deer gun season began with a bang Monday in West Virginia — literally.
As of 3:30 p.m. opening day, 307 deer had been harvested in Mason County, according to Kem Shaw, assistant district wildlife biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. Shaw said Mason County was in the top five counties in terms of deer kills on Monday.
These numbers were readily available thanks to the WVDNR’s new electronic game check system that began in April during turkey season. There are no longer official game checking stations.
Shaw said so far, the new electronic system seemed to be catching on and he believes the “availability” of the system is its greatest selling point.
According to the WVDNR, electronic game checking will benefit hunters and trappers in several ways. Hunters can hunt later in the day without worrying about driving around to find an open check station. This will also save hunters time, gas and wear and tear on their vehicles. If a hunter has cellphone coverage in the woods, he or she can check the game in over the phone and immediately dress and chill their game, helping to preserve the freshness of the meat.
According to WVDNR, hunters and trappers can check in their game by visiting a license agent, by calling 1-844-WVCheck (1-844-982-4325) or going to www.wvhunt.com, though they will need their unique DNR ID number, which is valid for a lifetime.
Three hunting and fishing license agents are physically located in Mason County at the Mason County Clerk’s Office at the county courthouse, Mason County Exxon on Sand Hill Road outside Point Pleasant and Wal-Mart in Mason. Though hunters no longer have to physically take deer to a location to be checked, they still need to field tag their deer.
As for this year’s deer gun season harvest, Shaw said he expects it to be up from 2014. Last year’s opening day consisted of warmer, windy weather — warmth, wind and rain all point to a lower harvest.
This year’s opening day had none of that and this year, the oak is spotty which means deer are being pushed out of the woods into the fields to search for more food. Last year, Shaw said the oak was plentiful and deer stayed deep in the woods to forage for their food source, which left many hunters searching for a population they couldn’t find. The plentiful oak last year and a mild winter, means deer had another year to grow larger for 2015. This should lead to some impressive racks in 2015 as well. Shaw said in 2014, deer harvests were down 20,000 statewide.
Deer gun season ends Dec. 5 in West Virginia. Shaw reminds hunters that doe and buck seasons are two seasons that overlap.
According to WVDNR, it’s estimated hunters spend $165 million in West Virginia each year.
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.