Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

W.Va.’s abysmal ATV safety record

Statistics issued recently by the Consumer Product Safety Commission are enough to send a chill down any West Virginian’s spine.

If you live in the Mountain State, you’re at least 2.5 more times likely to die in an ATV accident than people who live in other states.

Between 1982 and 2006, West Virginia trailed only Pennsylvania and California in the number of ATV deaths. But because Ol’ Wild and Wonderful is home to so many fewer people, the state’s death rate per capita is 6.5 times higher than Pennsylvania’s and 19.3 times higher than California’s.

West Virginians’ death rate is 2.5 that of Kentuckians, 3.6 times times that of Texans, 4.2 times that of Tennesseans, 6.7 times that of North Carolinians and 7.6 times that of Michiganders.

And, as I pointed out in Sunday’s column, that rate isn’t likely to fall until the Legislature does three things: Mandate helmets for all riders, outlaw riding double, and pass a law that makes four-wheelers illegal on all paved roads.

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.

Spew alert!

Do not — I repeat — do not be drinking water, coffee, tea or soda when you read the paragraph below. It’s a Gazette news staffer’s waggish interpretation of a press release from the Smokie Coyote Hunting Club, a Wyoming County-based organization that pays $25-a-head bounties to members who kill coyotes:

“Coyotes can be trapped, shot, garroted, shanked, speared, darted, tire-ironed, bitch-slapped,  run over or overdosed with prescription drugs.”

All this mayhem is to take place during a “four-stage coyote killfest” that the club plans to conduct Feb. 16-18, March 14-16, April 18-20 and April 26-27.

Club officials plan to pay out $10,000 in bounties during those periods. Coyote carcasses can be checked in at Park Center Sporting Goods in Rainelle, Flat Top Arms in Beckley, Uncle Sam’s in Man, Dee’s Pickette and Sporting Goods in Hamlin, Great Outdoors in Ripley, Crossroads General Store in Newark, Jerry’s Sporting Goods in Weston, Gander Mountain in Charleston, and Johnson’s Sporting Goods in Summersville.

Anyone who wants more information about the contest can call (304) 682-8146.

Well, at least it got changed

It took a couple of weeks for lawmakeres to whip it into shape, but it appears that a legislative bill to teach hunter safety education in middle-school and high-school physical education classes has finally been amended into a form West Virginians might accept.

This week’s Gazette-Mail column describes the bill’s evolution.

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.

Now here’s a real bummer

Americans aren’t going outdoors as much as they used to.

We’ve suspected for some time that work, television, the Internet, PlayStations and other diversions keep us from going outside as much as we should. It’s just a shame to see that there are statistics that support those suspicions.

A report, released recently by the Nature Conservancy, shows that Americans aren’t hunting, fishing, hiking, backpacking, camping or enjoying nature as much as they once did.

Again, it’s not suprising. But it is a mite depressing. 

Support for a serpent

Every year, the West Virginia Legislature wrestles with some weighty issues. They’re currently trying to decide whether the timber rattlesnake should become the “official state reptile.”

 Timber rattler

What are your thoughts? Follow this link to read the story. If you have an opinion, why not post it in the comment section below?

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.