Early black bear hunting opportunities beckon

Bob Fala Outdoors Columnists

September 15, 2013

Earlier hunting opportunities for black bear are making for a little Mountain State tradition of their very own. That is, from the long standing later in the fall or dang nigh winter gun hunts previously established for them. But that was then and this is now. What’s more, these earlier opportunities are over and above those hunts of the bygone days. Point being, don’t miss out for not knowing about them.

West Virginia black bear populations continue to expand and are at record proportions. Along those lines, the hunting opportunities are doing likewise. Case in point, gun bear hunters (with or without dogs) will get the first crack at the bruins. That early gun season, September 21-27 literally gets the Mountain State big game ball rolling for 2013. The first split of archery bear season opens right on its heels, September 28 – November 23. A base hunting license and bear damage stamp are required to participate in either.

The early gun bear hunt (Sept. 21-27) however is only available for a suite of all or parts of 16 mostly traditional mountain and national forest counties. These counties or parts thereof include: Barbour, Braxton, Clay, Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Mineral, Monroe, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, Upshur and Webster. Hunters should carefully check the county maps in the regulations pamphlet available online or at any license agent.

A much closer to home octet of Coalfield counties then follows with its very own gun bear season, October 7-11 (with or without dogs). The eight counties offering this special hunt are: Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Raleigh and Wyoming. What’s more, a second bear may be taken in season provided that at least one must be taken from these very eight counties. The daily bag limit remains at one per day.

Hunters should note that the feeding or baiting of bears at any time is unlawful. Also, the blaze orange clothing rule applies to bear hunters when hunting a county or part thereof during any deer firearms season. Folks might recall that the West Virginia Mountaineer mascot was ticketed last year for violating this rule after having been incriminated by a YouTube posting.

It is also unlawful to shoot a bear weighing less than 75 pounds or to kill any cub or any bear accompanied by a cub regardless of its weight. Harvested black bears must be presented at a game check station within 24 hours of the kill. Hunters are highly encouraged by DNR to provide an easily extracted pre-molar for aging purposes. In addition, female bear reproductive parts are also of tremendous value in assessing the population. Instructions and contact points for participating are provided in the regulations pamphlet.

Black bears have increased here beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. This restoration has been totally financed by the hunting public for all to enjoy. And all the while, that’s been in the face of significant hunting pressure. Point being, good management is just that, paying tremendous recreational dividends and without the antics experienced by other states.

All that being said, keep in mind that this is just the kickoff for the initial bear hunting opportunities with much more bear hunting “tradition” making to come this very fall. So stay tuned!