As another hunting season approaches, we as hunters have the responsibilities to obey the law, be safe, and hunt ethical. It seems that more and more private land is becoming leased or posted as landowners feel they can control who hunts on their land better. Gaining permission to hunt private land can be tough nowadays due mainly to those who have no respect for the land and leave trash, gates open, ride ATV’s wherever, poach, etc.
There will always be a bad apple in every bunch. Whether it’s the belligerent drunken college football fan, high school bully, or in this case the unethical hunter. Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life and the world we live in. It’s up to us responsible hunters to show the non-hunting public that we care deeply for our natural resources and the wildlife we pursue.
After all, without good habitat and abundant wildlife, the hunting wouldn’t be as enjoyable. I think that’s a big misconception among non-hunters is that they don’t realize how much money is generated from hunting that in turn goes back to help fund habitat projects and the DNR. Our WVDNR struggles with funding the way it is and it would be much worse without hunting.
Most hunters have their favorite spots they like to hunt year after year and many are planting food plots which create a quality food source for all wildlife. I know I’ve enjoyed watching deer all summer in the 6 acres of clover I planted. Besides numerous deer, I’ve seen turkeys, rabbits, bears, and even a bobcat in the clover field.
According to a press release from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) “West Virginia is very fortunate to have 78 wildlife management areas, eight state forests and three national forests totaling more than 1.5 million acres open to the public for hunting, trapping and fishing. This is more than 10 acres of public land for every resident, licensed hunter.”
It might sound like there is plenty of room for everyone, but chances are, if you’ve spent time hunting on public lands, you will encounter other outdoor enthusiasts while afield. The same could be said about fishing on public waters as well. It’s up to each individual to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner during these encounters to not only determine the success and enjoyment of their own hunt, but to respect others using the same public lands.
The WVDNR suggests the following tips for the public land hunter:
Make sure you know and understand the regulations for the public land on which you are hunting or trapping. Although many of the regulations among public lands are similar, some may have regulations specific to that area, such as older-aged deer management areas.
Be respectful of other hunters and try not to hunt the same area as someone else.
Have a back-up plan, and try to scout several areas to hunt. This way, if someone else is already using the area you were planning to hunt, you have other alternatives and your day is not ruined.
Some types of hunting, such as dove and waterfowl hunting, can be very social. If another hunter shows up late, invite them to join your group if you have room. Chances are, this will improve both of your hunting experiences because you will not be competing for the same game.
If you come across other hunters, ask them where they plan to hunt and tell them where you plan to hunt. Working together, you can increase your chances of not interfering with each other’s hunting and keep everybody safe. In some situations, more hunters can be a positive factor.
If you are going to hunt an area where someone else may already be hunting, proceed with caution and courtesy. Just remember — you would not want someone to interrupt your hunt.
Blinds and tree stands should be placed and removed at appropriate times. Placing a tree stand on public land three weeks prior to the season to reserve “your spot” is not only unfair to other hunters but is also illegal. This also applies to leaving a tree stand up all season.
Dispose of hides and carcasses from harvested game in a lawful manner. It is illegal to dump deer carcasses on public land.
Leave the area in better condition than you found it. Do not leave trash, and if you see trash, pick it up and dispose of it properly.
The old saying of, “first come, first served,” applies to many situations while using public land. The fact of the matter is that public land is for everyone. As outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen, we need to treat others using public land the same as we expect to be treated. Hunt safe, be responsible, and practice good ethics this year. The statewide squirrel season opened on Saturday September 14. Archery season starts on September 28.