Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Waterfowl numbers down, but nothing to fret about

Division of Natural Resources biologists recently completed the state’s annual winter waterfowl survey. They counted 1,714 ducks and 3,466 geese — fewer than normal, but about what was expected.

Cold weather in January ordinarily pushes ducks and geese from the Great Lakes region into our area. This year, according to the DNR, warmer-than-normal temperatures allowed those birds to stay north of us.

The upshot? Chances are the state’s duck and goose hunting won’t be much different this year than it has in past years.

West Virginia’s wildlife officials had long wondered whether the state’s spring gobbler season was too long — that hunters were killing more birds than the population could stand.

Happily, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Biologists recently completed a study of radio-collared gobblers, and its results appear to show that the spring season isn’t too long after all.

Bear hunting regulations to change?

West Virginia’s wildlife officials are concerned that the 12,000 bears now roaming the state might be more than the public wants. So, when the state Natural Resources Commission meets on Feb. 24, they’ll hear proposals from Division of Natural Resources biologists to change a few bear-hunting regulations.

 Read the full story here.

One heckuva year…

A lot of hunters would like to have the sort of season Marshall Hanshaw had in 2007. See the Sunday Gazette-Mail’s Woods & Waters page for the full story!

A true trophy

The greatest gift of all

West Virginia’s deer hunters deserve a pat on the back.

They donated 1,224 deer to the Division of Natural Resources’ Hunters Helping the Hungry Program in 2007. That’s a 19 percent increase from 2006, when hunters donated 1,030 whitetails to the cause.

Since an average deer yields roughly 40 pounds of boned, ground venison, it’s reasonable to estimate that West Virginia’s hunters put 25 tons of venison on needy people’s tables this year!

The program, begun in the early 1990s by former DNR director Ed Hamrick, allows hunters to donate any deer they kill. The donated animals are butchered at designated meat-processing centers throughout the state, and the venison gets trucked to the Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway for distribution.

Food pantries, soup kitchens, senior centers and needy families receive most of the donated meat. Since the program’s inception, Hunters Helping the Hungry has been the Mountaineer Food Bank’s largest and most reliable source of red meat.

W.Va.’s elk dilemma

West Virginia’s wildlife officials aren’t especially happy to have elk roaming the state’s southern mountains, but they’ll manage the animals anyway.

Curtis Taylor, the Division of Natural Resources’ wildlife chief, said DNR biologists will gather soon to decide how best to manage any elk that currently reside within the state’s borders.

Those would include the mysterious Logan County herd that materialized, seemingly from thin air, in December 2006 between Man and Logan. Those animals were last seen in the Blair Mountain area and appear to be keeping a low profile. Individual elk have been spotted in Mingo and Wayne counties.

“Even if we don’t already have elk here, we’re going to get them as the population in eastern Kentucky increases and those animals spread out,” Taylor said.

Kentucky now boasts a population of more than 6,000 elk, the result of an aggressive stocking program begun in 1997. Most of Kentucky’s elk live in counties adjacent to West Virginia.

“They’ll eventually move here, and we’re going to have to be ready to manage them when they do,” Taylor said.