Archery deer becoming the new big gun

Bob Fala Outdoors Columnist

September 23, 2013

Archery deer hunting is the unquestionable “big gun” of the southwestern West Virginia coalfields. It started out as a matter of necessity, but has evolved more into one of choice. Reason being, the four counties of Logan, Mingo, Wyoming and McDowell have offered nothing but the bow for deer since the late 1970’s. But even on a statewide basis, the bow-benders continue to crowd out the former big daddy of them all, gun buck season. It looks like it will be more of the same for this year’s again earlier archery deer season opener of September 28.

A lot has changed deer-wise since the late 1970’s. That’s when gun hunts produced something like ten deer on a local county basis. They now produce archery-only kill numbers in the neighborhood of a thousand! Long last, while deer herds have grown to nuisance proportions just about everywhere else, the herds here have finally begun to exhibit strong establishment and saturation.

What they lacked in numbers however, the coalfield deer more than made up for in quality. In testament, the trophy status of the bucks here has reached national acclaim. Deer have a way of defying the old axiom of strength in numbers. They are in fact better off when kept in balance with the food source. As a result, the once derided coalfields have become a mecca for the Mountain State’s best quality deer.

The current deer management scheme is in fact geared more toward making the rest of the state akin to the gun-less four, than vice versa. By that we mean bigger bucks, healthier deer and better buck to doe ratios. The quality concept is now much more accepted than it once was. Media such as the Outdoor Channel may take much of the credit for fellow hunters convincing their counterparts to a great extent.

Other factors are aiding and abetting the archery growth along the way. Better technology in the compound bow and tree stand arenas has been a plus and again we must mention the many outdoor TV programs that have been a boon for both their educational and entertainment values. Another boon to the bow-hunter has been the expanding ability to concurrently hunt for other big game species like bear, boar and wild turkey from their same “deer-perch” or tree-stand.

This year alone for example, archers will be able to take a fall turkey (Oct. 12-19) in the local counties of Lincoln, Logan, Wyoming and McDowell. Archers should carefully check the county regulations and license requirements for concurrent hunting. Also, be advised that the archery boar season does not open until Oct. 12. Eventually, this may be addressed by the Commission for simplification sake so that deer, bear and boar open the same day.

As bow-hunters and all hunters crave for more regulatory simplification, it’s the gun buck season opener that’s continually being crowded out. With that once the only game in town, the archery and muzzleloader specialists have displaced it gradually over the years. What’s more, the many other gun deer hunts from youth, antlerless, early antlerless, and Christmas options continue to whittle at the Thanksgiving week’s gun buck popularity.

Getting back to that ever growing quest for bigger antlered bucks, still better than half of the Mountain State’s Big Buck Contest typically antlered bucks come from just four of its 55 counties; Logan, Mingo, Wyoming and McDowell. Just last year, nine of the top ten were arrowed from the famous quad, with Mingo chalking up the top three. Still yet, four of the five top ten of all time were bagged at the gun-less four.

Like Old Man River, the good times for archery deer hunting just keep rolling along. This year should be no exception, especially at the southwestern coalfield counties.