Bear season kicks off big game hunting

By Roger Wolfe - Outdoors Columnist

As of the first day of September hunting seasons are officially in full swing. The weather is hot and steamy and the outdoor action is heating up right along with the temperatures.

Root and bird hunters alike shared a moment of thanksgiving as the seasons for ginseng, goose and mourning doves opened up on the first day of the month. Those with aspirations of bigger game didn’t have to wait much longer.

Saturday September 3rd afforded the next generation of squirrel hunters first crack at the tree dwelling bushytails and it, also, saw one of the earliest openers for a big game species in West Virginia history. The season for black bear opened up in McDowell, Wyoming, Logan, and Mingo counties.

In 2015 hunters harvested a record 3,201 black bears in all the combined seasons. McDowell (109), Wyoming (108), Logan (84) and Mingo (39) counties combined for a total of 340 of that number so these counties should provide plenty of bruins for hunters to pursue.

Along with the new earlier opening to the seasons there are several regulation changes that hunters should be aware of when chasing the early season bear. Probably the most notable change when it comes to bear hunting is the broader definition of what is considered baiting.

Baiting for bear is described as corn and other grains, animal carcasses or animal remains, grease, sugars in any form, scents attractants and other edible enticements. In recent years there have been a variety of products and most notably scent distribution devices that were marketed to entice a bear into your hunting area.

Under the new definition of baiting those are illegal in the Mountain State. It is, also, important to note that an area is considered baited for ten days after all trace of the bait has been removed. This is definitely something to keep in mind if you happen to be hunting in an area that has a deer feeder nearby.

Another big change in the regulations pertaining to the big bruins is that all successful hunters are now required to submit a tooth from the harvested animal. In recent years the WVDNR had asked that hunters provide this tooth to help study the productivity and mortality in the bear population.

This year it is mandatory that successful bear hunters extract one of 4 first premolars and send it in to the Elkins Operations Center. Instructions on how to extract and submit the required tooth can be found in the latest regulations summary and also online at

Hunters must remember to submit the tooth no later than January 31st, 2017. Submitting the tooth isn’t a huge thing to ask, but it will go a long way in helping the biologist know exactly how the bear population in the state is doing.

Fortunately, for those of us in the coalfields, the bear are still thriving and the population appears to be continuing to grow. So much so that bear hunters are allotted a season limit of 2 bruins again this season as long as at least one comes from the coalfield counties as outlined in the regulations. It is definitely worth looking into if you are a die-hard bear hunter.

As always be sure to get a copy of the latest regulation summary and take a look through them just to make sure you are aware of all the changes that affect your preferred hunting areas. The hunting laws do change a little from year to year and it never hurts to get a refresher.

Thankfully, the WVDNR always puts a summary of the changes front and center in the regulations and makes them easy to find. Be sure to check out the regulations and make sure you are playing by all the rules anytime you are in the field so everyone has a safe and hopefully successful hunting season.

By Roger Wolfe

Outdoors Columnist

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