Still plenty of deer hunting to do

Chris Ellis/For The Register-HeraldThe week of Thanksgiving, when friends and family gather to celebrate the culture and heritage of buck season, is a time-honored tradition. But that week is not the only week of the season and there are many great deer hunting opportunities left, including antlerless hunting, bow hunting and, my personal favorite, muzzleloader season.

Deer season in West Virginia is a special time of year for most hunters, with the highlight being the two-week buck firearm season. The week of Thanksgiving, when friends and family gather to celebrate the culture and heritage of buck season, is a time-honored tradition. But that week is not the only week of the season and there are many great deer hunting opportunities left, including antlerless hunting, bow hunting and, my personal favorite, muzzleloader season.

After a week or so of hunting hard for deer, I find myself needing a break, whether I filled my freezer or not. Don’t get me wrong, I love to deer hunt, especially during the rut and when it's cold and the deer are on their feet during the daylight. But a week or so of deep-diving into their world can leave me needing a mental and physical break from the challenge. Also, as I get older, I enjoy being active when hunting and most seasoned deer hunters know that one of the best ways to become a proficient and successful deer hunter is learning how to get where the deer are quietly and learning to sit still and wait on Mr. Big Buck to screw up. Those who run through the woods wide open generally aren’t going to put their tag on antlers consistently every year.

So if you find yourself tagged out, deer hunting-fatigued or simply want to take a break, too, from chasing Mr. Big Buck, there are many small game hunting opportunities left. In fact, some are just starting to get good. Like me, you just might find an easy afternoon of squirrel hunting with an enjoyable stroll along an old wood road taking advantage of the fresh air in your lungs and the bonus of stretching your legs.

Hunting seasons for several small game species are under way now and provide great opportunities for new hunters and families to get outside during the fall and winter months and take a break from your deer season to relax and enjoy some other forms of hunting. Seasons for raccoon, ruffed grouse, cottontail rabbit, squirrel and several other small game species are open and run through Feb. 28.

From our WVDNR, "Raccoon hunting has a bag limit of four per night. There is no bag limit for raccoon trapping. Hunters should find similar numbers of raccoons as last year during the upcoming season, and hound hunters should find success throughout the state.

"The ruffed grouse season has a daily bag limit of four with a possession limit of 16. Quality habitat is the primary limiting factor to grouse populations, so hunters should concentrate their efforts in regenerating timber areas of five to 15 years in age.

"The cottontail rabbit season has a daily bag limit of five and the possession limit is 20. For the best opportunities for hunting success, hunters should seek out old field habitat and the edges of adjacent regenerating forests. The statewide squirrel season has a daily bag limit of six with a possession limit of 24."

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