The Mountain State’s bow-hunting only deer counties are now as famous as the Hatfield McCoy turf they reside in. The “gun-less” or “fab four” have that familiar ring of Logan, Mingo, Wyoming and McDowell. Comprising just seven percent of West Virginia’s 55 counties, the quad regularly accounts for more than half the annual Big Buck Contest entries. The past year is no exception per the results just released by Gene Thorn, DNR’s long time keeper of the count.
What’s more, not only did the four counties chalk up 56 percent of the total 69 qualifying entries that met the minimum Pope and Young score of 125 inches, they also tallied the number one typical bow buck for the year 2011. That being David Miller’s Mingo County monster. It scored a whopping 171 6/8 inches and also took the fourth slot on the all-time charts.
No surprise then, Mark Lester’s 1998 Logan County and number one buck of all time (175 6/8) as well as four of the top five overall bucks have come from this same zone. But when will this antler dominance end?
At least for now it appears that the area is holding its own much to the beguilement of some deer managers that anticipated a herd explosion that has yet to arrive. Reviewing the Big Buck Contest data in five year increments going back to 1990 reveals a remarkable consistency in the bow-hunt “only’s” fifty percent or so of the total state typically racked trophies.
In fact, DNR’s new deer management plan gives greater acknowledgement to the steep, heavily forested areas that just don’t support the numbers of deer the checkerboard hayfield counties do. In short, the bow-hunting counties are nothing like the explosive deer number counties the likes of Jackson, Wirt, Ritchie and Mason. Hunters are much savvier to this stuff than they get credit for.
Yet one DNR official back in the early 1990s posted wall charts comparing Logan County’s projected herd growth mistakenly with that of Mason County, a drastically different farm, field and woodlot habitat and deer numbers mecca. Again no surprise, DNR faced severe local opposition to gun hunting proposals back then and still does to this day. In testament, busloads of locals attended a DNR Commission meeting at Flatwoods, WV just a couple years back to voice their opposition to any form of gun deer hunting in the trophy zone.
Still yet, deer have a way of creeping up on you and at some point in time; this trophy thing may begin to erode. The road kills are mounting and the backyard gardens and flower patches are getting nailed overnight and all that kind of stuff. So the bow-hunters out there better start using some of those management antlerless tags to maintain the status quo if that’s what they want.
And as a bona fide resident of Logan County the past 25 years, I was out of town a few days. My neighbor tells me that while I was gone, five deer took over the place eating up the petunias, impatiens, roses and most of the grass on the back hill. But at least I won’t have to water the flowers and cut the grass during this confounded 100-degree weather!