Best Bets for Bow Bucks: West Virginia
Bob McNally 11.18.15
One recent autumn, 37-year old teacher Steve Flores of Julian, West Virginia tagged a 170-inch, 12-point buck he took from Logan County, near the capital city of Charleston. While that heavy buck is his best-ever deer, it’s not the only good one he’s collected by bow from Logan County. He previously tagged a 9-point, 130-inch P&Y, taken from the same tree stand where he claimed the 12-pointer.
Four West Virginia counties southwest of Charleston (Logan, McDowell, Mingo, and Wyoming) have bow-only deer hunting. Every year some B&C bucks are taken from those counties. Animal quality is astounding, and getting permission to hunt isn’t too bad if you knock on enough doors.
There also are public hunting areas. The R.D. Bailey WMA (17,000 acres) in Mingo and Wyoming counties is recommended, as well as 10,000-acre Panther State Forest in McDowell County.
Flores says Boone and Lincoln counties are two other good big buck bets because they’re near the bow-only counties. He warns they are rugged and steep, and the best buck hunting is far off the trail, where bowmen have got to work for them. But some dandy whitetails are available, though not found in easy-to-get-to areas.
Flores has his best buck bowhunting during the rut, from the week before Thanksgiving to mid-Thanksgiving week.
The Monongalia National Forest in the rugged eastern mountains is another good bet for good bucks. It’s remote, so it doesn’t receive much pressure, and vehicular access is limited.
Counties bordering Ohio River farmlands in northwestern West Virginia have lots of deer, though age structure is not as good as in some other regions. Deer numbers are so high that some townships and counties (like Kanawha County, at Charleston) are organizing special urban bowhunts that have great potential for record bucks.
Good bets for older bucks can be found on some selected WMAs that have minimum antler restrictions. Beech Fork Lake, Bluestone Lake, Burnsville Lake and McClintic WMAs, and Coopers Rock State Forest have such regulations.
The state deer population is approaching one million, with hunters annually harvesting nearly 250,000 animals. Deer seasons run mid-October through December, with a liberal limit, and non-resident bow licenses readily available. For more information, go to the state website (www.wvdnr.gov).