Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

After a North Dakota doctor found lead in venison being given to needy families, charitable programs that rely on hunter-donated venison came under scrutiny.

Officials who administer West Virginia’s Hunters Helping the Hungry program aren’t worried about the venison being distributed in this state. Curtis Taylor, wildlife chief for the state Division of Natural Resources, says that because all the meat is cut and prepared by state-certified meatcutters, the chance of contamination is slim.

Sunday’s Gazette-Mail column outlines the entire story.  

Everywhere one looks, it seems, critters are “going wild.”

People in Alaska, for example, are learning to deal with dumpster-diving moose.

Members of a theater’s board of directors got invaded by a kamikaze turkey gobbler.

A deputy answering a home-intruder call ended up having her police dog tangle with a burgling turkey.

Postal workers in Madison, Wis., have armed themselves with water pistols to fend off attacking turkeys.

And a 63-year-old New Hampshire motorcyclist is recovering from injuries he received after a turkey flew into him.

(Hat tip for all the above: J.R. Absher at the Outdoor Pressroom.)

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I discovered that Rob Keck, for 27 years the chief executive officer for the National Wild Turkey Federation, had submitted his resignation.

Keck cited the usual “personal and family reasons” for his planned June 1 departure, but sources within the NWTF believe he was protesting the organzation’s board of directors recent vote to relieve two Keck assistants of their duties.

Details are in this week’s Sunday Gazette-Mail column.

Long gone are the good old days when ammunition reloading supplies were: 1.) easy to get,  and 2.) cheap.

Shortages caused by the United States’ war on terror have made brass and bullets hard to get, and have dramatically increased shipping costs for gunpowder. This week’s Sunday Gazette-Mail feature outlines the situation.

Politicians cloud real issues in baiting debate

Members of Mississippi’s legislature are considering a bill that would make deer baiting legal in that state. Their debate, however, has centered on side issues that fail to address the bill’s biological and ethical shortcomings. See Sunday’s column for details.

Tried to order any gunpowder lately? Cartridge cases? Bullets? The United States’ ongoing war on terror has dried up some sources of the materials hunters and target shooters use to reload ammunition. Sunday’s Gazette-Mail feature highlighted the problem.

West Virginia conservation officers and hunter-education instructors will no longer have to beg their way through the doors of schools.

A bill, passed in the closing days of this year’s legislative session, allows the 10-hour hunter-ed course to be taught in any school in which 20 percent of the students express interest in taking it.

In the past, instructors had to go through a long, drawn-out process before school administrators would let them in.

Sunday’s column has details.

For the second year in a row, biologists from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources are proposing only minor increases in the number of antlerless deer that hunters will be allowed to kill this fall.

If approved, the proposed regulation changes would be as follows:

  • The number of counties with antlerless-deer seasons would increase from 41 to 44;
  • The number of counties with four-deer bag limits would increase from 19 to 22; and
  • The number of counties with two-deer bag limits would increase from 10 to 13.

In addition, DNR biologists want to allow 20 days’ worth of antlerless-deer hunting on 41 state-owned wildlife management areas. Last year, those areas were open for just six days.

For more detailed information, see the article published in Sunday’s Gazette-Mail. 

It’s a hoax, folks!


Contrary to what you might have read, seen or heard, a huge mountain lion has not been killed in West Virginia.

The accompanying photo has been circulating around the Internet for the better part of a week. The story that usually accompanies it alleges that the cat was killed along the highway between Parkersburg in Wood County and Grantsville in Calhoun County.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, the unfortunate lion was struck by a Ford F350 pickup truck driven by Marshall and Barbara Rader near their home in northern Arizona. The man in the photo is Jason Ellico, the Department of Public Safety officer who was called out to dispatch the injured animal.

The accident occurred in December. Since then, the photo has circulated around the Internet, usually accompanied by a claim that the cat was killed in Arkansas or West Virginia.

Lowering the boom on bears

Faced with a fast-growing black-bear population, unprecedented numbers of bear-nuisance complaints and record payouts for bear damage claims, West Virginia wildlife officials want to change the way people hunt the animals.

Division of Natural Resources officials know that the best way to reduce the bear population is to kill female bears before they go into hibernation and give birth. So, in Sunday’s Natural Resources Commission meeting, DNR bear biologist Chris Ryan proposed a September hunting season for counties where bruin populations are starting to cause problems.

If history is any indication, the strategy should work. Prior to 1977, bear seasons opened in November. Hunters had no trouble killing females; in fact, the earlier seasons shrank the statewide bear population to fewer than 500 animals.

In 1977, wildlife officials pushed the bear season back into December. Hunters killed lots of male bears, but most females were safely in their winter dens by then. The bear population rose steadily, and today numbers more than 12,000.

The September season is designed to reverse the bear population trend. Biologists placed the season in September instead of November to avoid conflicts with bowhunters during the peak of the deer rutting season.

If approved by the Natural Resources Commission, the September season would be held this fall in Boone, Barbour, Fayette, Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Kanawha, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Raleigh, Randolph, Tucker and Webster counties.