Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Some guys have all the luck…

By the time Jim Dunlap of Alum Creek, W.Va., returned from a recent fishing trip to Florida, he’d already caught a 50-inch dolphin (the fish, not the mammal) and a 7-foot sailfish that weighed at least 100 pounds.

That probably would have satisfied most fishermen. But shortly after Dunlap returned to the Mountain State, he went out and caught a 24 1/4-inch smallmouth bass — nearly a stare record for length!

The full story of Dunlap’s remarkable spring ran on the Woods & Waters page in the June 22 Sunday Gazette-Mail.

Congratulations to Christian Pyles and Chad Bright, two Mason County fishermen who happened to catch state-record fish just a few miles apart on the same day.

 Sunday’s Gazette-Mail column describes how Pyles caught a record skipjack and Bright landed a record blue catfish.

Sid Taylor doesn’t mind at all that his life has gone to the dogs.

Taylor, 71, takes part in rabbit-dog field trials with his star beagles, Annie and Bo. He and his lop-eared companions have earned 73 trophies in the last year and a half, including a second-place finish at the American Rabbit Hound Association’s World Hunt in March.

Sunday’s Gazette-Mail feature reveals how the dogs helped pull their master out of a post-retirement funk. 

West Virginia wildlife officials recently issued some unpleasant news: The rate of chronic wasting disease among Hampshire County deer appears to have increased.

Tests on deer killed earlier this spring by DNR sharpshooters turned up 11 animals that tested positive for CWD. Division of Natural Resources administrators said the findings didn’t come as any great surprise, even though they more than doubled the number of positive cases found in any previous sampling effort.

The epicenter of the outbreak still appears to be in the Slanesville-Augusta area.  Sunday’s Gazette-Mail article details the latest DNR findings.

In an effort to thin the state’s black-bear population, members of the state Natural Resources Commission have voted to open a late-September firearm season.

As outlined in the Sunday Gazette-Mail, biologists expect the nine-day hunt to reduce the bear population by 10 to 15 percent.

When Ted Bone pulled out his box call and started yelping like a hen turkey, he had no idea he would catch the attention of two marauding coyotes.

This week’s Gazette-Mail column details the hair-raising confrontation.

A tribute to a big ol’ bear

Visitors to the West Virginia Wildlife Center during the 1980s and early 1990s undoubtedly remember Jack, a black bear big enough to qualify for his own ZIP code.

Jack loved to eat junk food and drink pop, both of which visitors to the center were all too happy to provide. He grew large on the rich diet. In his prime, he was estimated to weigh as much as 700 pounds.

Now, thanks to the efforts of concerned volunteers, Jack’s memory will live on. A taxidermist mounted the great bear’s hide, and the mount now occupies an exhibit in the center’s gift shop.

Great.

After months of enforced inactivity, West Virginia’s turkey hunters finally get to play. What happens? It rains!

Yesterday’s opening day of the 2008 spring gobbler season dawned cool and wet. This morning was no better — not as wet, but much colder.

A sizable portion of West Virginia’s spring harvest comes during the first three days of the season. The first two days have been washouts. Wildlife officials had predicted an increase from last year’s kill of 9,965, but if this sort of weather continues the number will come in lower.

On the bright side, maybe these inclement conditions will force hunters to hunt more during the season’s last two weeks. A second peak of gobbling occurs during that time, but most sportsmen miss out on it because they prefer to hunt early.

Sunday’s Gazette-Mail feature outlines the Division of Natural Resources’ expectations for the season.

A first: Public hunting land in Logan County

By all descriptions, the new Elk Creek Wildlife Management Area in Logan and Mingo counties will provide good hunting for deer, turkeys and squirrels.

Division of Natural Resources officials recently dedicated the 6,004-acre tract, which will be open to turkey hunters when West Virginia’s  spring gobbler season opens April 28. Sunday’s Gazette-Mail article gives details.

‘Touchable, seeable’ improvements

Ever wonder where the money goes that you spend on that “conservation stamp” for your hunting or fishing license?

Every year, that stamp brings in an estimated $1.6 million, all of which goes toward capital improvements such as rifle ranges, boat ramps and land for public hunting and fishing.

Sunday’s Gazette-Mail feature takes a closer look at how the program has affected hunting and fishing in the Mountain State.