Josh Crawford headshot

Josh Crawford

Now that all deer seasons have come to an end here in West Virginia, it is always interesting to analyze the overall harvest statistics from the season. These statistics can indicate whether or not the deer herd is healthy, hunter numbers and overall kill ratios throughout the entire state. 

Interestingly enough, Hampshire County was in the top 10 counties for buck harvest this past season, which has not happened for quite some time. This is most likely due to the sporadic acorn crop this past year, which had deer in pockets that enabled hunters to key in on particular areas that bucks were hanging out. 

The following is an excerpt from the DNR press release from earlier in the month:

 “Preliminary data indicates West Virginia hunters harvested 42,674 antlered deer during the 2-week firearm season from Nov. 22 to Dec. 5. The harvest is a 10-percent increase over the 2020 harvest of 38,785 bucks.

’The harvest during the 2021 traditional buck firearm season was expected to be similar to that of 2020,’ said Paul Johansen, chief of the WV Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Section. ‘Below average oak mast indices may have allowed hunters to better pattern deer movement.’”

“Johansen explained that only the north central portion of the state had a decline, while all other areas of the state registered increases. The southeastern and southwestern areas of the state had the largest increases from the 2020 harvest at 31 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

“The top 10 counties for the 2021 buck harvest are Greenbrier (1,603), Hampshire (1,483), Randolph (1,356), Jackson (1,353), Hardy (1,264), Preston (1,261), Braxton (1,243), Monroe (1,225), Kanawha (1,222) and Roane (1,205).”

It will be interesting to see how the rise in buck harvest in Hampshire County plays out next year, as there seems to be a rise in overall hunter numbers as well. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and it is actually a good thing in my eyes, as the more hunters we have in the woods, the more opportunity we will have as sportspeople. 

One thing that is concerning, and there is nothing we can do about it: the lack of overall mast crop throughout the past few years. Lack of mast has enabled hunters to take more deer simply because the bucks are forced into pockets where food is. When there are more acorns and natural browse, it spreads the deer out a bit more, making it a little more difficult to pin down their patterns, resulting in lower harvest rates. 

The cold weather and snow has made it difficult to get outside and complete any deer-related tasks, but nicer weather is on the horizon, which means spring scouting and shed hunting. I know I’m doing everything I can to get my rest now, because before too long, it’ll be time to find bucks to hunt next year. o

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