September is a transition month with cooler temperatures in the early mornings which triggers the leaves on the trees to start showing hints of fall colors. Labor Day has come and gone, school is in session, football is back and yes, another hunting season is here! The 2019 hunting season kicks off this Saturday with squirrel season opening on September 14.
There will be an early bear gun season with or without dogs in all, or parts of, 16 counties from September 21-27. The counties open are Barbour (east of Route 92), Braxton (east of I – 79), Clay (south of Elk River), Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Mineral (west of New Creek), Monroe (east of Route 219), Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, Upshur (east of Route 20) and Webster.
“Counties that will be open for early bear hunting are above their management objective and need additional bears to be harvested to achieve their goal,” said Colin Carpenter, black bear project leader for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR). “The benefit of early seasons is that all bears are available because den entrance is still two or more months away.” Carpenter advises that oak mast from the red oak group appears to be more abundant in most areas than in 2018, and many of the soft mast species have done well. Bears often feed heavily on soft mast early in the season before hard mast becomes available. “Hunters who focus their efforts near black cherry trees that have fruit, abandoned apple orchards and autumn olive thickets should be able to find bruins,” Carpenter said.
I’ve been seeing the same in the woods with plenty of red oak acorns already starting to drop. The hickory trees produced a decent crop this year and may be a place to start if you venture out for the squirrel season opener. The white oak acorns appear to be spotty in nature this year.
This past weekend I noticed where a bear destroyed an autumn olive bush that was loaded with fruit. They can destroy every one of them as far as I’m concerned as those autumn olives can take over a field in no time. The black cherry trees had an abundant crop this year and the majority of the small cherries have already dropped or been consumed. The much-anticipated start to deer season will begin on September 28 with the archery and crossbow opener. I have mixed feelings about this year’s deer seasons as EHD has hit the area I hunt. We found a dead 5 point a couple of weeks ago and I smelled a couple more when I was riding around surveying the damage. On one farm nearby, they’ve already found 11 dead deer. The reports keep coming in and it won’t stop until the first frost which kills the biting midges that transmit the EHD virus.
A deer must be bitten by the midge to contract the EHD virus and it’s not transmitted from deer to deer. Some deer can survive the EHD virus so it’s not all doom and gloom. I’m just going to pay attention to how many deer I’m seeing as the season progresses and determine how many I take this year.
West Virginia isn’t the only state experiencing EHD this year as Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina are other states that are finding it as well. There’s a video going around on the internet somewhere in the Midwest that shows a big buck that walks through a campground and then literally walks into a creek and drowns itself. It’s crazy to watch and hard to believe that something so small and tiny that you can hardly see, the midge, can transmit the EHD virus and bring down an adult deer.
It’s been found that in years with extreme wet springs followed by a dry spell in mid-to-late summer increases the likelihood of EHD occurring. The increased rainfall creates more water and mud holes where midges like to propagate causing their populations to rise. We had that exact weather pattern this year and could explain why we’re seeing EHD here in Nicholas County where it’s never been documented before.
The first day of Fall is only a couple of weeks away and another hunting season is upon us. Pay attention if you’re out and about in the woods the next few weeks to get an idea of what food sources produced in the area you plan to hunt. The bucks are starting to shed their velvet revealing a polished set of antlers that deer hunters hope to lay eyes on in the weeks and months to come. Good luck to all of my fellow hunters this year and stay safe.