West Virginia’s hunting season kickoff coincides with the Monday (September 1) Labor Day Holiday. And just like clockwork, it’s the regular dove and early goose seasons that get the ball rolling. Right on their heels is the youth squirrel hunt the following Saturday, September 6. The general squirrel season opens a week later, September 13. The earlier arriving squirrel seasons should be catching on better now with each passing year. Nevertheless, these dates are correct so don’t miss out for not knowing!
Here’s some basics on these early hunt options. For starters, make sure you have a current 2014 hunting license. The complete regulations are available on-line or via hard copy at any regular license agent. Seniors that have reached the age of 65 on or after January 1, 2012 are reminded to obtain the new one-time (lifetime) senior license. That is, unless you were already the holder of one or otherwise exempt.
Since both doves and geese are managed under the federal Migratory Bird Act, shotguns must be plugged to a maximum three shot capacity, one in the chamber plus two in the magazine or tube. The free Harvest Information Program (HIP) registration is also required. Per DNR, the HIP card is available at any of their offices and all license agents. Hunters harvesting any banded migratory bird (dove or goose) should report the information by calling 1-800-327-2263 or online at www.reportband.gov.
The daily limit on doves is 15 with the September 1 (first day) action not to commence until noon with all day hours resuming thereafter. The first split of dove season closes Oct. 18. Neither a migratory bird hunting (duck) stamp nor non-toxic shot is required for doves. However, both are required for geese.
The early goose season kicks off at one-half hour before sunrise Monday, September 1 through Sept. 13 with a daily bag limit of five. Resident geese have reached nuisance proportions at many resorts, particularly golf courses and others with vast, open grassy areas and nearby water sources. Hunters are encouraged to obtain permission at such known locales.
Doves are fond of open, bare earth zones with plenty of available seeds to feed on, especially if near a water hole with some dead tree limbs for roosting. Agricultural fields fit this bill; particularly those that have recently been chop-disked or harvested. Freshly seeded coal strip reclaims also mimic these conditions. If at a total loss for a place to go, contact a local District DNR Office for some suggested dove management fields. Phone numbers are available at the front of the regulation pamphlets.
Moving on and just for the youngsters is the special “youth” squirrel hunt for the first crack at bushy-tails come Saturday, September 6. This youth day is available to youngsters under the age of 15 provided that they are accompanied by a licensed adult, who may not carry a gun or bow. Squirrel numbers may not be at bumper levels in areas where the acorn crop was slim the prior year, which was oft the case in 2013.
Nevertheless, the state squirrel population remains strong and underutilized. The traditional six per day bag limit remains unchanged. The earlier statewide squirrel season opening of September 13 “should provide hunters more time to pursue the state’s most popular small game species,” according to DNR Wildlife Chief, Curtis Taylor. He adds that, “Mild weather conditions in September and longer days offer a great opportunity to take a youngster hunting.”
Even if you don’t pursue these early bird (and squirrel) opportunities, hunters should be getting their gear organized and hitting the archery and/or rifle ranges to practice and check on the accuracy of their implements. The ever popular archery seasons for deer, bear and new for this year, wild boar come together Saturday, September 27. Just like for squirrels, folks are catching on to the earlier archery big game opener as well.
Once again, it’s beginning to look a lot like hunting season with some earlier openings making for a little tradition of their own.