Bob Wise, Governor
Opening Dates for West Virginia's Small Game Seasons
With the 2003 fall hunting season upon us, the Division of Natural Resources encourages hunters to spend time afield scouting for areas with abundant mast production. Fall can provide one of the most enjoyable outdoor experiences when sportsmen and women are afield looking for food and animal sign, according to Curtis I. Taylor, Chief of the Wildlife Resources Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
• The traditional small game season begins October 11 with the opening of squirrel season and runs through January 31, 2004 . “Squirrel populations will be lower this year due to low hard mast production in 2002, but should still provide a good population for bushy tail hunters,” said Taylor . Squirrels will be concentrated primarily in hickory and beech stands this year.
• Ruffed grouse season opens October 18. Brood counts are lower statewide this year due primarily to wet weather in the spring. Mast reports indicate that soft mast and beech are more abundant this year and grouse may be scattered. Clearcuts, old fields and old strip mines which have available grape, dogwood, crabapple or hawthorn will concentrate grouse.
• Raccoon hunting will begin at 6 p.m. on October 18. “Even with the poor mast crop in 2002, we still have a good population available to hunters,” said Taylor .
• Cottontail rabbit , snowshoe hare , bobwhite quail , ring-necked pheasant , bobcat , red fox and gray fox hunting seasons begins November 1. Rabbit hunting is best in early successional habitat, such as abandoned farmland, reclaimed strip benches or clearcut areas. “Field reports from DNR personnel indicate that rabbit numbers are up due to the increased cover from this year's heavy rain fall and should provide a good year for hunters who like to hunt with beagles,” said Taylor.
• Trapping season for all fur bearing species will begin November 1. Trapping provides a good opportunity for young people to become familiar with wildlife species, sign and behavior. Coyote, bobcat, fox, beaver, raccoon, mink and muskrat populations are at an all time high. In general, fur prices have remained stable but low. Young people interested in participating in trapping should contact an experienced individual to learn care and attendance of sets, techniques, and preferred locations for sets.
“I encourage everyone to get outdoors this fall and enjoy our state's wildlife resources,” said Taylor . “Take a youngster small game hunting and introduce him or her to hunting as a form of recreation. Those who share outdoor hunting experiences learn to respect wildlife species and their habitat.”
For additional information, hunters and trappers are urged to pick up a copy of the 2003-2004 West Virginia Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary available at all licensing agents, DNR Offices or by visiting the DNR website at www.wvdnr.gov
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