With the woods calling to many this month, a West Virginia University Extension wildlife specialist is reminding hunters safety is a priority. To help, Sheldon Owen is available to talk about hunting best practices ahead of the start of buck firearm season in the Mountain State on Nov. 21.
“Remember the rules of firearm safety: always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction, keep the safety on, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, and make sure of your target and of what is beyond. Once you pull the trigger or release the arrow, you cannot get that bullet or arrow back.
“Wear blaze orange for your safety. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources requires that people hunting in counties where a deer firearms season is presently open must wear a blaze orange outer garment of at least 400 square inches.
“Be safe when using a deer stand. If you are hunting from an elevated deer stand, make sure to always use an appropriate hunter safety harness, and keep your firearm unloaded while climbing into or out of your deer stand.
“Always tell someone where you will be hunting and what time to expect your return.
“New hunters — both young and old — need to take a hunter safety education course. This is a requirement to obtain a hunting license, but also a good idea to learn more about hunter safety. Even for seasoned hunters, reviewing hunter safety material can be beneficial as a reminder to keep safety first.
“Remember to purchase your hunting/trapping/fishing license. Wildlife is a public resource, and we entrust the West Virginia DNR to manage that resource. Their funding comes from license sales, so even if you don’t hunt, consider buying a license. The revenue goes to fund wildlife management in West Virginia which also benefits our wildlife management areas — public lands many of us enjoy visiting for hiking, exploring and bird watching.
“Hunting seasons and bag limits change from year to year, and it is important to stay up to date with those changes. The latest regulations are available online.
“It is also important to report what you harvest. West Virginia has an electronic check system where hunters can report specific harvested game. Annual harvest is an important component in wildlife management. Biologists need to know harvest rates to ensure that our game populations are managed sustainably. Harvest data are used to establish bag limits and season lengths and provide the most accurate information is needed to ensure appropriate management decisions.
“In some areas of our state, we have overpopulations of deer which can have a negative impact on habitat, landscaping and gardens. Harvesting deer is a great way to decrease the population and reduce deer damage.” — Sheldon Owen, wildlife specialist, WVU Extension