The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, born of acts such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act of 1934, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 and the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950, is the foundation that allows our nation’s wild game animals to flourish. One only has to look at a few examples that were pushed to such low levels of nearly no return, such as bison, white-tailed deer and wild turkeys, to see how effective the model really is today.
The model also requires hands-on participation from sportsmen and women not only to be the active tool in conservation, but to also be willing to pay a price in dollars to do so in the forms of licenses, permits, tags and excise taxes on the sporting equipment that fuels the model.
Here at home, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources sends out an annual report on deer harvested for the entire past season. I find the conservation report interesting and since most sportsmen and women hunt deer in our state, I thought the report was on message for this audience.
According to preliminary data collected by the DNR, hunters in the Mountain State harvested 106,861 white-tailed deer during the 2020-2021 fall and winter seasons. The harvest was 7.5 percent higher than the 2019 harvest of 99,437 deer and six percent below the five-year average of 113,444.
A breakdown of the combined 2020 deer seasons reveals a total of 38,785 bucks were harvested during the traditional buck firearm season, 31,255 antlerless deer were taken during all antlerless firearm hunting opportunities, 31,564 deer were harvested by bows and crossbows in urban and regular archery/crossbow seasons, 4,615 deer were taken in the muzzleloader season and 642 deer were taken with a primitive bow and muzzleloader weapons during the Mountaineer Heritage Season in January 2021.
Antlerless Deer Season Harvest
The 2020 antlerless deer harvest of 31,255, which includes the youth/Class Q/Class XS deer season, was 10 percent higher than the 28,336 deer taken in 2019 and 8 percent below the five-year average of 33,863 “It is important to note the antlerless harvest is the key component to any deer management strategy, as it controls the future deer population,” said Paul Johansen, chief of the WVDNR’s wildlife resources section.
Muzzleloader Deer Season Harvest
The 2020 muzzleloader harvest of 4,615, which does not include 612 deer taken with side lock and flintlock muzzleloaders during the Mountaineer Heritage Season, was two percent higher than the 2019 harvest of 4,522 and only 20 deer below the five-year average of 4,635.
Archery and Crossbow Deer Season Harvest
The bow and crossbow hunter’s take of 31,564 deer, which does not include 30 recurve- and longbow-harvested deer taken during the Mountaineer Heritage Season, was seven percent higher than the 2019 archery and crossbow season harvest of 29,508 and 12 percent above the five-year average archery season harvest of 28,278. The number of harvests in 2020 that were taken with a crossbow increased and was greater than deer reportedly taken by a bow for the fourth year.