Preliminary counts of deer registered with the new electronic game checking process indicate West Virginia hunters harvested 138,493 white-tailed deer during the recently completed bucks-only, antlerless, muzzleloader, archery, crossbow and youth/Class Q/Class XS deer seasons, according to Division of Natural Resources Director Bob Fala.
This year’s harvest was 32 percent higher than the 2014 deer harvest of 104,707 and 10 percent above the 5-year average of 126,067.
A breakdown of the combined 2015 deer seasons reveals 60,814 bucks harvested during the traditional buck firearm season, 39,853 antlerless deer taken during all antlerless firearm hunting opportunities, 32,540 deer harvested by bows and crossbows, 5,179 deer taken by muzzleloader hunters, and 107 deer taken but with an unknown season assignment.
The 2015 antlerless deer season harvest of 39,853, which includes the youth/Class Q/Class XS deer season, was 1 percent more than in 2014 and 8 percent below the 5-year average of 43,188. “It is important to note that the antlerless harvest is the key component to any deer management strategy, as it controls the future deer population,” said Director Fala.
In 2015, all or portions of 47 of the 55 counties were open to antlerless firearms season for hunters to harvest one to three antlerless deer depending on the county. Next year, antlerless deer hunting opportunity will depend on the need to increase, decrease or stabilize deer populations in each of the 51 counties where firearms deer hunting is permitted.
The top 10 counties are: Lewis (1,753), Ritchie (1,622), Mason (1,593), Jackson (1,521), Roane (1,514), Preston (1,437), Wood (1,436), Upshur (1,271), Hampshire (1,240) and Harrison (1,228).
The 2015 muzzleloader harvest of 5,179 was 6.5 percent less than the 2014 harvest of 5,543, and 21.5 percent below the 5-year average of 6,603. The top 10 counties are: Nicholas (265), Randolph (203), Braxton (189), Fayette (183), Jackson (183), Preston (182), Ritchie (167), Lewis (165), Lincoln (159) and Upshur (155).
The bow and crossbow hunters’ take of 32,540 deer was 46 percent more than the 2014 archery season harvest of 22,281, 28 percent above the 5-year average archery season harvest of 25,481.
Archery harvests are correlated to hard mast crops. The above-average acorn crop in 2014, followed by a below-average acorn crop in 2015, likely contributed to the higher 2015 harvest and played a factor in the low harvest in 2014.
“Although there were no additions to a hunter’s bag limit with the addition of the crossbow season, undoubtingly the rise in harvest reflected the use of crossbows, which probably increased hunter participation and success in some counties,” Fala said.
Crossbows accounted for 37 percent of the total harvest for the archery and crossbow seasons combined. The top 10 counties are: Preston (1,415), Kanawha (1,069), Wyoming (1,039), Raleigh (1,032), Logan (924), Randolph (921), Wood (909), Upshur (906), Mercer (817) and Fayette (801).
Clay harvest figures are as follows: Buck/Gun, 618; Antlerless, 184; Muzzleloader, 25; Archery/Crossbow, 339 for a total harvest of 1,166.