It has rained nearly every day of this year’s West Virginia firearm season for buck deer, and that much rain never augurs well for hunters’ success. At this point in the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the harvest fall short of last year’s total of 68,385. That would be a shame, as DNR officials were expecting a kill in the 70,000-to-75,000 range.
My column this week tells how Frank Jezioro, director of West Virginia’s Division of Natural Resources and a renowned bird hunter, earned Top New Shooter honors at the recent Grand National Quail Hunt in Enid, Oklahoma:
Despite being “the only poor boy there,” West Virginia’s top wildlife official made quite a splash during the recent Grand National Quail Hunt.
Jezioro, Director of the state Division of Natural Resources, earned two plaques and a new shotgun for winning the competition among first-time participants in the annual event. Jezioro said he’s thrilled to have won, but he still wonders how he got invited to the rather exclusive affair.
“A lot of the people who get invited are celebrities and CEOs,” he said. “Some of them said they’d read my articles on dog training in Pointing Dog Journal, so maybe that’s how I got nominated.”
The nomination was only the first step in Jezioro’s eventual trip to Enid, Okla., for the hunt. “After somebody nominates you, you’re required to send in a resume that outlines your qualifications. Then a board of selectors decides which among the nominees will actually be invited.”
The goal of the event is to raise money for preserving and enhancing quail habitat.
“They’re trying to hold on to the tradition of hunting wild quail,” Jezioro explained. “A lot of the people involved are CEOs and owners of companies involved in conservation.”
Jezioro showed up in Enid, Okla., not knowing exactly what to expect. He quickly found out
“They assign a greeter to pick you up at the airport and make sure you get to the various events,” he said. “There were a couple of different banquets to attend, and for us first-time shooters there were also a clay target competition and a hunting competition.”
At the end of the 50-target clay bird competition, Jezioro found himself tied with Atlanta’s Rex Baker for first place.
“We had a 25-shot shoot-off,” Jezioro said. “There must have been 100 people standing there watching us, and I guess the pressure kind of got to my competitor. He didn’t shoot particularly well, and I ended up winning.”
The Marion County native fared equally well in the two-day quail hunting competition.
“The bag limit in Oklahoma is 10 quail a day, but since conservation is the idea behind the hunt, the organizers set our limit at six quail. The idea is to see who could take the most quail with the fewest shots. You got bonus points for getting a limit without a miss, and you got bonus points for using a small-gauge shotgun,” he explained.
On the first day of the hunt, Jezioro took six shots with his 28-gauge Ruger and downed six quail. A day later, he duplicated the feat. His 12-for-12 performance topped the first-time shooter field.
“I ended up getting real nice plaques for the individual events – plaques in the outline of the state of Oklahoma, with brass relief-carvings of bird dogs in the middle,” he said. “And for winning the overall championship, I got a real nice Beretta semi-automatic 12-gauge,” he said.
As nice as the prizes were, Jezioro said he received nearly equal gratification from other hunters asking him to share his dog-training expertise.
“They pride themselves on having very good bird dogs,” he said. “Some of them asked me to look their dogs over and critique them. That was very satisfying.”
He said he’s also pleased to be able to show that a West Virginian can hold his own among serious bird hunters.
“I think this should give our hunters and shooters confidence that we know what we’re talking about,” he said. “Anytime a West Virginian wins something, it gives us all a little bit of pride.”
DNR biologists at the Leon game-checking station estimated the buck’s age at 4 1/2 years and measured its antler spread at 21 5/8 inches. They green-scored the rack at 155 inches.
Good shootin’, Dave!
I hope each and every one of you has a chance to pause with family and friends and give thanks for your blessings. Enjoy the food, the fellowship — and if you have a chance to get out and do a little deer hunting, all the better.
An apparent trespassing-related dispute with a group of bear hunters has left a Red Lion, Pa., man dead and one of the hunters wounded.
Frank N. Shaffer, 63, of Red Lion, was killed when he apparently confronted the hunters as they crossed property owned by his family. Paul H. Plyler, 23, of Summerville was wounded in an apparent exchange of gunfire.
The Philadelphia Inquirer has an Associated Press synopsis of the story.
Horseplay with firearms — any kind of firearms — is a bad, bad idea.
A student at Appalachian State University lost his life when a friend aimed a muzzleloader at him and popped a percussion cap.
The Wautauga Democrat has the story.
Tragic. And senseless.
Foster had better watch what he wishes for. A few days after Foster shot off his mouth, WVU shot enough bull’s-eyes to post a 4691 — believed to be the highest collegiate aggregate score ever posted. And the Mountaineers did it against the nation’s second-ranked team, the University of Kentucky.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 1-ranked West Virginia University rifle team shot a school-record aggregate score and toppled No. 2-ranked and Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) foe Kentucky, 4691-4642, this evening at the WVU Rifle Range.
The Mountaineers’ team score is believed to be the highest collegiate aggregate total since the NCAA implemented a 60-shot course at the onset of the 2004-05 season. The total is 14 shots better than WVU’s previous school record of 4677, set last year.
Additionally, WVU (6-0, 3-0 GARC) remains undefeated in both disciplines this season, as the team triumphed over UK in smallbore, 2333-2294, and air rifle, 2358-2348. The Mountaineers’ smallbore score is a school record, while their air rifle total is one shot short of matching the school record.
“I wanted the team to peak for this match, but to shoot the scores we did today and to achieve this kind of overall result was beyond our expectations,” says fourth-year coach Jon Hammond. “Today was a really good day and a big confidence boost for this team.”
Despite forecasts calling for partly cloudy skies, the opening day of West Virginia’s buck season opened to a gentle drizzle — at least where I live.
The dampness doesn’t seem to be hurting the harvest, though. Hunters report seeing good numbers of deer. The bucks I’ve seen have been in good condition, but lighter in antler and body than those from previous seasons.
The current forecast calls for skies to clear a bit by early afternoon.
This week’s Gazette-Mail column:
As I write this, the latest weather reports are calling for moderate temperatures and partly cloudy skies on Monday and Tuesday, the first two days of West Virginia’s buck season.
Do I hear a sigh of relief?
Bad weather has plagued the last several buck seasons. Historically, half of all the bucks killed during the 11-day season are taken in the first two to three days. Inclement weather on those days wreaks havoc on the harvest.
Last year was a prime example. Rain and wind in the western and southern parts of the state caused many a hunter to sleep in. Up in the mountains, ahead of the advancing rain front, the wind blew hard and it snowed a little.
It’s been years since we West Virginians have experienced what DNR officials consider “perfect weather” for the buck opener — a light covering of snow on the ground, with clear, cool, nearly windless conditions.
This year’s conditions will be good, but not perfect. The National Weather Service says daytime high temperatures should range between the high 50s and the low 60s throughout most of the state. That’s a little on the warm side. Deer might bed down to beat the heat.
But with an estimated 300,000 hunters stirring about, bucks probably will find it hard to stay put. All that movement should roust lethargic bucks and keep them on the move. At least that’s the plan.
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Bucks’ antlers, on average, should be a little bigger this year.
Last year’s crummy weather held the buck kill well below DNR expectations. More bucks survived the season. Those bucks are a year older now, and older bucks grow bigger antlers.
Those bucks came through the winter in excellent condition. An abundance of acorns gave them enough body fat to survive even the harshest conditions, and the weather never really got cold.
When bucks head into spring in such good shape, they tend to grow nice racks. DNR biologists tell me they’re seeing a lot of nice 8- and 10-pointers. In a state where rack size ranks second in importance only to the tire diameter of one’s pickup truck, that’s exceptionally good news.
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I’d be remiss if I didn’t devote at least a little space to safety.
Please wear the recommended amount of blaze-orange clothing. Please make sure to keep your firearm’s safety on until you’re almost ready to pull the trigger. Please practice “muzzle discipline” and keep your firearm’s muzzle pointed away from your hunting partners.
Please unload your firearm whenever you climb over a fence. Please unload it when you climb into your tree stand, and pull it into the stand with a rope rather than trying to climb the tree with it in hand.
Please don’t shoot at deer silhouetted against the sky; make sure there’s a solid backstop for any bullet you send downrange. And please, please, please make sure that the movement or sound you think might be a deer actually is one. Identify your target. The life you save might be a friend’s.
Be safe, and have fun. See you out there.