West Virginia Guide for First Time Hunters

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) – Some West Virginia hunting seasons have already started, and deer season is fast approaching. If you’re new to the woods, here are some guidelines from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources that can help make your first hunt successful.

When are the seasons?

Squirrel and bear seasons have already started in West Virginia for 2022, but most hunters in the state are looking forward to deer season. Bow deer season begins September 24, gun season begins October 20, and buck season begins November 21. Fall turkey season also begins in October. The Natural Resources Commission determines the dates of the seasons each year, so the dates for 2023-2024 and so on will be slightly different. Dates for all seasons in 2022-2023 can be found here.

What license do I need?

Licensing to hunt in West Virginia can be quite complicated. Those who want to hunt deer need at least a hunting and trapping license (Class A) and a conservation stamp, which would cost $24 plus a processing fee. Hunters ages 19-64 can purchase a Class X license, which includes Class A, B and BG license endorsements and the Conservation Seal for $35 plus a processing fee.

All persons born on or after January 1, 1975 must successfully complete a certified hunter education course before purchasing a basic hunting license or be approved for the Hunting Apprentice License which does not require the course. You can find a complete list of valid license combinations here.

West Virginia also offers lifetime hunting licenses for $805 for adults. Certain unique and even free licenses are also available for military personnel, veterans, children (under 15 years of age), and those over 65 years of age.

Information on obtaining a West Virginia hunting license can be found here.

What is a baggage limit?

Each season has a limit on how many deer hunters can take, per day per season, and how many anyone can own at one time. For example, bear hunters can take a maximum of one bear per day during the season and a total of two bears during each season. Squirrel Hunters can catch up to six per day during the season with no total season limit.

For deer, it’s a bit more complicated. In general, deer hunters can take two deer per day during bucking season, as long as one of the deer is antlerless, but deer limits vary depending on the county in which you are hunting. Specific limits can be found on pages 15-17 and 20 of this document. Certain areas of public lands also have unique limitations which can be found on pages 18-19. During the buck season, the season limit is one per day during the season and two per season in total.

If you wish to harvest more than the bag limit, you must purchase stamps for your license prior to the start of the season. More information on additional stamps can be found here.

where to hunt

Many hunters in the state hunt on their own land or obtain permission to hunt on other residents’ land, but the state also has public hunting lands, including 92 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) that represent 8% of the population. land in West Virginia. Rules for using the West Virginia WMAs can be found here.

Before you go hunting you should…

  • Fire your weapon before a season begins with the same arrows or ammo you plan to use while hunting. Changing the weight of arrows or the bullet weight of an ammunition could drastically affect accuracy.
  • Check gun sights to make sure they haven’t been bumped or displaced while in storage.
  • If you are going to bowhunt, check the bowstrings for fraying and the bow arms for cracks. If any break during a draw, there is a chance of serious damage.
  • If you are going to hunt with a bow, make sure the broadheads are sharp, which will help in a quick and ethical kill.
  • Check all tree base straps and safety harness for wear and replace anything that shows signs of fraying.

You should also make sure you pack everything you will need. The WVDNR recommended the following packing list to ensure you are prepared for your hunt.

  • West Virginia hunting license
  • appropriate firearm
  • Proper clothing for hunting
  • dry change of clothes
  • A bottle of water with extra water.
  • A raincoat in case of rainy days
  • a small backpack
  • sunscreen
  • Insect repellent

You have a! Now what?

After an animal is harvested, it must be registered and tagged in the field. Check-in can be done online using your DNR number; this will give you a game registration number, which should be written on a piece of paper or field tag along with your name, address, the date and time of the slaughter and the county in which it took place, and then attached to the animal. For deer, it is usually placed in the animal’s ear.