The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 18, 2012

The thrill of the hunt

West Virginia firearm buck gun season Nov. 19 TO Dec. 1

— You’d think after stalking deer more than three decades that dropping a hefty buck would be routine by now for Arthur Collins.

No instant case of the jitters. No fumbling with the safety. No beads of sweat coursing down into the eyes at a critical moment inside a forest.

Not so.

As he and wife Tammy prepared to leave their Piney View home to help launch the two-week season Monday, accompanied by 9-year-old grandson Isaiah Haney, the veteran deer hunter spoke of the nerves that normally are associated with the novice hunter.

Buck fever, in hunting vernacular.

By explanation to the uninitiated, it is that sudden lapse into a fatal moment of hesitation that causes many an otherwise telling shot to go astray and leave the buck to roam another day.

“If you don’t get excited, there’s no use doing it,” says Arthur, who worked 18 years as a farrier.

Every time a buck pops up, it’s as if he is on his first hunt. That familiar moment of apprehension.

“Maybe more so now than when I was younger,” he said.

The family will hole up in a primitive camp at Little Clear Creek, near Rupert in Greenbrier County, in what has become a tradition for the Collins unit. There is no electricity there, so they will get in the cabin after dark with the aid of lanterns. Cooking is performed on a propane stove.

Isaiah won’t be able to indulge in any video games without electricity but can watch movies up to two hours, the duration of the batteries.

Operating like a hunting club, the family is among 900 people who use the 80,000 acres under a lease agreement.

“Some have generators, but some up there have army tents, too,” Tammy said.

“We did that one year — one year. That was enough. We had a wood stove and chopped wood. One year is all we needed of that.”

Little Isaiah got a jump on his grandparents by bagging a buck two weeks ago in the state-sponsored youth hunting program.

The pleasures of hunting are simple to define for the student at Daniels Elementary School.

“You get to go in the woods and shoot guns,” he said.

Apparently, his classmates don’t share Isaiah’s zest for hunting, and his grandmother jokingly said he at times is referred to by them as a “redneck,” a term he doesn’t share.

Greenbrier County recently was the focus of a special hunt by “Planet Earth” in an attempt to prove the existence of Bigfoot.

“I think he’s real,” Isaiah said, with a wry smile.

“We’ll sleep with the lanterns on, won’t we?” his grandmother followed up.

West Virginia’s annual two-weeks firearms season for deer will open Monday in all but Logan, Mingo, McDowell and Wyoming counties, and it appeals to some 330,000 licensed hunters. The Division of Natural Resources expects the kill to be slightly above last year’s harvest of 60,157.

On an annual basis, the overall deer season — all phases figured in — translates into a $230 million windfall for West Virginia’s economy.

Nasty weather often lowers the projected kill, but at the outset, nature seems to be smiling on hunters.

Through Thanksgiving day, the extended forecast calls for cloudy skies, with highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s, which certainly is conducive to a hunt.

Unless, of course, you’re catching shuteye in one of those army pup tents.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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