Clint Ferguson

Have you ever wondered what it was like to hunt and stalk big game in the rugged West Virginia hills and hollows during the late 1800s and early 1900s?

If so, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has created an opportunity to do just that with the Mountaineer Heritage Season. This is the 2nd year for the season for deer and bear, which will take place from Jan. 9-12 — this Thursday through Sunday.

During the Mountaineer Heritage Season hunters are allowed one deer of either sex and one bear with the use of a percussion side-lock rifle, flintlock rifle, long or recurve bow. The 2019-2020 hunting and trapping regulations state: “Only single-shot side-lock or flintlock muzzleloading rifles of .38 caliber or larger, long bows and recurve bows are legal during the Mountaineer Heritage Season. Telescopic sights are not permitted. In-line muzzleloaders and a firearm that has been converted into a muzzleloader by use of plug, or double-barreled or swivel-barreled muzzleloader is illegal for hunting deer and bear during this season.”

The new season is open statewide, but only long and recurve bows are legal in Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming counties. The regulations go on to say that it is illegal to hunt with a crossbow or compound bow during the Mountaineer Heritage Season. It is also illegal to hunt bears with the use of dogs during the Mountaineer Heritage Season.

Hunters who took their limit of 3 bucks in the 2019 fall seasons may only take an antlerless deer. Blaze orange is required except for those hunting in the bow-only counties.

“This new season is a great opportunity to hunt in January and test your hunting skills,” said DNR Director Stephen McDaniel. “We’re calling it the Mountaineer Heritage Season because hunters may use only the types of rifles and bows that the original mountaineer settlers had available. At a time of year when hunting activity is usually slow, we hope this will encourage people to get outside and enjoy a hunting adventure without the aid of modern technology and that it will give them an understanding and appreciation for the historical significance of hunting in West Virginia.”

Because it’s a new year, hunters are required to buy a 2020 hunting license as well as a bear stamp if you plan on hunting for bear. All game must be checked in at, by calling 1-844-WVCHECK or at a hunting-and-fishing license agent.

It will be a challenge to get within primitive weapon range in the open winter woods.

The deer are still on edge from the recent 2019 deer seasons so hunters will have to be extra stealthy and pay close attention to which way the wind is blowing. A half an hour before dark will be the best chance to see deer as they aren’t moving much.

A bear will be even more of a challenge as the majority of them start to den up during this time of the year.

The warmer temperatures we’ve been experiencing along with spotty mast may keep the bears out longer this year, but they won’t be covering a lot of ground. The forecast is calling for warm temperatures and rain, which will add to the challenge.

The Mountaineer Heritage Season will give hunters a chance to take a step back in time and hunt the hard way just like our ancestors did before all of the modern-day advancements we enjoy in today’s world. Good luck to all of those venturing out for the primitive weapon season. o

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