Nearly every deer hunt begins with week-long studies of the region’s topographical maps.
But there is a familiarity that reaches beyond maps, charts, anddiagrams for area hunters.
The long, low mountains they call home are as familiar to most as their backyard or community ball diamond.
Throughout the East, the Appalachian Mountains and her offshoots are a major part of the landscape. Rising singularly beside narrow valleys, or pressed into a series like corrugated cardboard, these modestly elevated hills are a predominate feature throughout Southern West Virginia.
With typical elevations of 1,000 to 2,000 feet, and at mostly moderate angles, they are heavily wooded and full of game.
That’s what makes the four-county, bow-hunting-only region one of the most popular deer hunting landscapes in the state.
The four counties of Mingo, Logan, Wyoming, and McDowell include 2.1 million acres of prime deer habitat, and a unique opportunity is offered to hunters, who have come from all the 50 states to bow hunt there.
There is no other area in the United States of that size that offers bow-hunting area exclusively, he said.
The number of pope and young bucks being taken there, for landavailable, is amazing. The majority of pope and young bucks taken in the state are harvested in those four counties.
Most of the big bucks taken in other counties are harvested in nearby areas such as Raleigh, Boone, Kanawha, Fayette, and Mercer counties, according to the DNR.
Whether it’s simply a matter of spill-over or not, DNR game biologists don’t say. But they do point out that the steep terrain of the four southern counties favors deer survival. And the logic is simple: If it’s hard to hunt in those areas, bucks probably live longer there.
And the highest percentage of seeing a big buck is going to be in those counties, according to DNR wildlife biologists.
The four counties land ownership is over 90 percent large corporations. Not everything is posted. There is some leasing—maybe a quarter to a third—but some large land areas are open to hunting. There are some large wildlife management areas, such as RD. Bailey, Panther, and Tug Fork and Anawalt. Wyoming and McDowell have most of the public areas. Laural Lake in Mingo is another public area.
R.D. Bailey is the top bow-kill management area in the state. There’s some great habitat there too.
Most of the state records with a bow are from the four-county area—with the non-typical from Wyoming County and the typical from Logan County. The four counties are unique, to be sure, according to DNR game biologists.
Gun season has been closed for more than 25 years. So, there are bucks of all ages, with many living past three and one-half years—some all the way up the aging chart. That’s why there are so many big bucks there.
And while some hunters like to hunt on the plateaus and lowlands below the mountains, hunting in the rich valleys where farm crops attract a variety of game, in our area, most hunters are drawn to the mountains, where they must learn how to locate, and track and target game along the low mountain slopes.
The modestly elevated hills are a recurring feature of Southern West Virginia, and that’s where most of the action is when it comes to hunting trophy bucks with a bow.
That pretty much says it all.
Top o’ the morning!