Randy Yohe Published

Buck Gun Season Begins Monday, Antlerless Deer Included

two men in the woods wearing blaze orange with hunting rifles.
West Virginia hunters are required to wear blaze orange.
West Virginia Department of Natural Resources

More than a quarter million hunters will take to the Mountain State woodlands for the two week firearm deer hunting season starting Monday. This year, hunters again can purchase an additional license stamp to harvest one antlerless deer, along with one buck. 

Paul Johansen, the Wildlife Resources chief for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said deer hunting seasons are structured to achieve harvest objectives set for all 55 counties. 

“The focus is making sure that the appropriate numbers of female deer are removed from the population,” Johansen said. “Virtually all of the counties in the state have their buck season running concurrently with the antlerless season. There are some exceptions, and hunters need to make sure that they’re aware of that.”  

Johansen said hunters in Upshur, Mason, Jackson and Barbour counties are in this year’s observation station rotation. Hunters in these four counties are asked to bring their deer to a biological check station, where the data received will help better manage the deer population.

“We look at the overall health of the deer population,” Johansen said. “We look at reconstructing the population through age data, we look at a suite of different biological parameters that help us better manage the deer population.” 

Johansen said overall deer harvest numbers vary from year to year, depending upon a range of conditions, with weather being one of the primary drivers of success. He said last year, the numbers were good. 

“In 2022, we took close to 50,000,” Johansen said. “That’s just the buck firearm season component. We have antlerless deer that are harvested. We have deer that are taken during archery season and more from our muzzleloader season.”

Johansen said the two week buck gun season will generate more than $500 million in statewide economic impact. 

“Many of those dollars are spent at the small town ‘mom and pop’ stores,” Johansen said. “Those rural communities really make West Virginia a special place and deer season is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the economic impact that it provides to those towns and villages.”

Regarding hunting safety, Johansen said the key issue, besides wearing the required amount of blaze orange, is to know exactly what and where you are shooting.

“Make sure you identify your target and what’s behind your target so you’re taking a safe shot,” Johansen said. “Identify the target and make sure that you get a safe backdrop, if you will, and you know what that bullet trajectory is going to be. Taking a course in hunter safety is a great idea as well.”

If you’re hunting from a tree stand, Johanson suggests wearing the proper safety harness. More deer hunters die from heart attacks than gunshots. Johansen said hunters need to have good overall health and common sense.

“Once a deer is shot, really the work just begins,” Johansen said. “Now you’ve got to field dress the deer and you’ve got to drag it out of the woods. Hopefully, they’ve prepared themselves and are in reasonably good shape. Every hunter should take their time. If you get winded when you’re dragging a deer out, just pause for a moment. Don’t be afraid to go ask for help.”

Here are West Virginia’s rules, regulations and safety tips for the 2023 buck firearms hunting season.