West Virginia Wildlife Federation Hunting Guide

Posted on 12/11/2009

This “Guide” is to help Hunters and Fishermen to better understand and comply with the Fish and Game Laws of West Virginia.

The purpose of this information packet, is inform Hunters and Fishermen in terms that are easy to understand, some of the rules and laws they must obey while hunting and fishing. This packet is an effort to help better understand what we can or cannot do while hunting and or fishing. This does not explain every law, just some of the most over looked ones by hunters and fishermen. This effort was requested by the West Virginia Bear Hunters Association and the West Virginia Sporting Dog Association.

1. You must have a valid W.Va. Hunting license to train dogs unless you are a participant in a licensed kennel club field trial event with proper DNR permits.

2. You must have a valid W.Va. Hunting license and a bear damage stamp (“DS”) stamp to train or hunt bears with dogs. Even if you don’t own or have your dogs a field, whether you are participating in Bear Dog Training, or Bear Hunting with other people and their dogs. A Bear Damage stamp (“DS”) is also needed with Life-time- license, Junior license ect.. Under-age children and Senior license holders do not need a Bear Damage stamp (“D.S.”) to hunt or train dogs on Bear.

3. You are not allowed to start Bear Hunting, till ½ hour before sunrise (Not daylight). For example; December 3, 2008 . Sunrise 7:21am. You can start hunting, that is release your dogs, at 6:51 am. . You must stop hunting bear ½ hour after sun set (Not Dark). For example, on December 3, 2008 sun set 4:19 pm. You must stop hunting no later than 4:49 pm., Sunrise and sunset changes every day. You must consult an almanac to know the legal times you may start and stop hunting. These times also apply to hunting deer. Spring turkey hunting starts ½ hour before sunrise and ends at 1:00 pm. This does not apply to night hunting, raccoon, coyote and other species. Check your game regulations for more info.

4. Rigging your dogs on bear before legal hunting hours. You may rig your dogs before legal hunting hours. You may not release dogs to start hunting till ½ hour before sunrise.

5. After harvesting your legal limit of bear, you may still accompany the hunting party with or with out, your own dogs, as long as you do not take or attempt to take another bear. Other members of your hunting party with legal licenses and stamps may harvest bear with your or their dogs.

6. You can train dogs on bear, or raccoon day or night. Raccoon can only be harvested at night, with or with out dogs. If the county you are training in does not have Sunday hunting, you must stop training under the same rules as raccoon hunting. Raccoon hunting is allowed Saturday night thru Sunday morning ending at 5:00 am. You must stop training before 5:00 am Sunday morning. Raccoon and Bear training may resume Sunday night after midnight, 12:01 am. Monday morning, training may resume.

7. Training on Sunday, if the county you are training in does not have Sunday hunting. You “CANNOT” train on Sunday. This includes rabbit dogs, or any other type of hunting dogs. Only a licensed field trail event with proper DNR permits may be held on Sundays in counties without Sunday hunting.

8. It is illegal to hunt bear, deer, or wild boar with a pistol using a straight-walled case of less than a .357 magnum cartridge or a bottle-necked case of less than .24 caliber. While it is “legal” to have a concealed pistol/revolver while training dogs or hunting with the proper pistol/revolver license (commonly referred to as concealed weapon permit) and hunting licenses, it must be concealed, not out in the open. The concealed pistol/revolver can be used for self-defense only, and not to harvest game or attempt to harvest game. This applies to dog-training or hunting, hiking, fishing, biking, camping, also in or on a motor driven vehicle, (“it must be carried in a concealed manner“).

 If you are bow hunting during the “bow only” archery bear or deer season and have your concealed weapon, you cannot use it to “finish off the animal you have shot with your bow”.  Remember a concealed weapon is for “self-defense” only.

9. You may not use dogs to harvest, or attempt to harvest, a bear during archery-only bear season. Dog Hunting for harvesting or attempting to harvest bear is only for “seasons” & “areas” applying to dog gun hunting only.

10. It is illegal to FEED or BAIT bears at any time or place in W.Va. It is not illegal to bait for deer, (exception the CWD containment area in Hampshire County, where it is illegal to bait deer), however if a bear comes to deer bait site, it is illegal to harvest the bear. It is illegal to hunt or train dogs on bear using bait. It is illegal if you have knowledge of a bait site and turn bear dogs loose on said site.

11. No person other than the owner of a registered dog is allowed to remove a tag, collar or other identifying apparel, nor remove or turn off a radio transmitting collar without the permission of the owner. There are exceptions when it is necessary to treat the dog, or is done by a law-enforcement officer for law enforcement purposes.

12. According to the West Virginia 2008 Hunting and Trapping Regulations, a person is not guilty of hunting without permission just because their dog, with out their direction or encouragement, travels onto another person’s land where they do not have permission to hunt, as long as no game is taken, livestock or domestic animals killed or damage done to the property. Dogs may not be retrieved with out the land owners permission. Refer to DNR chapter 20-2-7 for more details on what can or cannot be done when your dogs goes onto someone‘s property.

13. It is illegal to dig out, cut out or smoke out , or in any other manner take or attempt to take , any live animal or bird out of its den or place of refuge. You cannot shoot a squirrel in its nest, kill or attempt to kill a bear or raccoon in a hole, or hollow tree ect.

14. The term “ROAD HUNTING”: Falls under West Virginia Code 20-2-5 (4), which makes it an unlawful method of hunting to “Hunt for, take, kill, wound or shoot at wild animals or wild birds from an airplane, or other airborne conveyance, an automobile, or other land conveyance, or from a motor-driven water conveyance, except as authorized by rules promulgated by the director.

“Land conveyances” include; trucks, cars, four-wheelers, ATV’s, horses, motorcycles, bikes, or anything else you can ride on or in. You cannot carry a loaded firearm on or in any of these examples. If you are in a truck, four-wheeler or any other land conveyance driving or riding with the purpose to locate wild game or wild birds, to shoot at, with a bow or firearm, you are “ROAD HUNTING“. This is illegal. After exiting a vehicle you must be 25 yards from said vehicle before you can shoot at game.

15. It is legal to train dogs other than during hunting season. Provided further, that the person training said dogs does not have firearms or other implements in his or her possession during closed season on wild animals or wild birds, whereby wild animals or wild birds could be taken or killed.

 This means you cannot carry a firearm or other implements to kill or take wild animals or wild birds, a field or have a firearm or implements in or on your vehicle, while training dogs during closed season. Example; rabbit season is closed and you are going to train dogs, you have stopped along the road and have released your dogs. In your truck is an un-loaded and cased gun behind the truck seat. You would have a firearm in your possession during closed season, while training and this would be illegal, and you are subject to arrest.

While training during closed season you can carry a concealed pistol/revolver with a legal concealed pistol/revolver license, (commonly referred to as concealed weapon permit) along with all other hunting licenses and stamps that may apply. Remember a concealed pistol/revolver is for self-defense only, not to harvest or attempt to harvest wild game and must be carried in a “concealed manner.

16. It is illegal to hunt or train on public lands on Sunday after 5:00 am. Even if your county has not voted out Sunday Hunting. Sunday hunting in those counties is on private land only with land owner’s permission. No where in W.Va. can you train or hunt on Sunday on public lands, with the exception of Licensed Field Trail events with proper DNR permits.

17. Using electronic game calls, mouth calls ect. at night. You cannot hunt “FOX” with any artificial light .The law says you may not use or take advantage of any artificial light in hunting, locating, attracting, taking , trapping or killing wild birds or game or to attempt to do so . Provided, That it is lawful to hunt or take raccoon, opossum or skunk by use of artificial light. However, that the law allows you to hunt coyotes by use of amber-or red colored artificial light. The season for coyotes (night) opens January 1 Thru July 31, 2008 . Coyotes (day) continuous open season. No where does it say you can hunt “FOX” with any artificial light. So if you are calling coyotes at night using an artificial light & a fox comes in to you. You cannot kill or attempt to kill the “FOX” using a artificial light.

18. It is illegal to tie a string to a jug and throw it in the water to fish with, attach a trotline to public piers and docks or with in fifty (50) feet of dam appurtenances. Trotlines and drop-lines must have the owners name and address attached, and be made of a waterproof material. Check fishing regulations to see where it is illegal to use trotlines and drop lines.

19. When trout fishing; you must have the proper fishing license and a trout stamp. Lifetime and Junior Sportsman licenses holder must also purchase a trout stamp in order to trout fish. Senior Licenses and under-age children do not require a trout stamp. It is illegal to fish with more than two (2) lines or poles in an impoundment stocked with trout by the DNR from January 1 thru May 31.

20. Game-fish may not be seined or trapped. However, if you catch a game-fish on a rod and reel, for example; a bluegill, you can use it for bait. You cannot use it for bait if you seined or trapped the game fish.

21. Bow-fishing. Carp may be taken any time; however other non-game fish may be taken except during May & June. Game-fish cannot be taken anytime with a bow. Keep in mind if you are bow-fishing, after harvesting a non-game fish do not throw it back into the water. This is illegal. You must dispose of it properly. To bow-fish in West Virginia, residents must have a valid fishing license. Nonresident must have a valid hunting license.

22. A permit is required from the DNR to hold a fishing tournament that is open to the public, or to award cash or prizes. Club tournaments, which are restricted to members competing for points, do not require a permit.

23. Young persons between the ages of 15 thru 17 years, whether a resident or nonresident, are required to purchase Junior Sportsman license to hunt or fish and must complete a approved hunter-safety course before purchasing the Junior Sportsman license.

24. In class-Q special area regulation waters, these are handicapped and children-only areas, they are day light hours only “fishing“. Also Catch-and-Release, and Fly-fishing- Only streams, are day light hours only “fishing“. All other areas you can trout fish at night, unless “night fishing” is prohibited in the area.

25. It is unlawful to transport fish from one body of water to an other within the state. Example ; you cannot take fish from Sutton Lake and release them in Burnsville Lake, nor can you take fish from Monongahela River & release them in Sutton Lake. This is how diseases are transmitted, and this practice is prohibited.

26. Any one wanting to take the W.Va. DNR Hunter Safety Course. This info can be obtained online by going to www.wvdnr.gov , or you can call 1-800-243-9968 to find a location near you where the class will be given.

27. For trout stocking information you can call 1-304-558-3399, trout stocking information is also on line at www.wvdnr.gov

28.To report game or fishing violations in progress call
1-800-net-game (1-800-638-4263)

29.      Raccoon Hunting; The bag limit during an 11 hour period beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 5 a.m. is "4" raccoons for each person or "groups of persons hunting as a party. Season limit, there is none on raccoon. Season for Raccoon Hunting opens October 18 2008 and closes February 28 2009. It is only legal to harvest raccoon between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. while hunting.

Example; If there was 6 of us hunting together as a hunting party, "4" raccoons (TOTAL) between all us in the hunting party, is our limit during previous stated hours each day, not 4 each.


NOTICE: The information contained in this packet is intended for informational purposes only. This information is intended to help you understand the game and fishing laws, but is not the actual law. You should read and understand the rules and laws which apply to your activity, these rules are published by the DNR and also available on-line at www.wvdnr.gov . Read and understand the game and fishing laws before going a field. Good luck!

West Virginia DNR Law Enforcement has reviewed this guide; the following is the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Disclaimer.

NOTICE: The information contained in this Guide is provided as a service to the hunting/fishing community, and does not constitute legal advice. We try to provide quality information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained herein. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for advice of competent counsel. The Guide is neither evidence nor a strict recitation of the laws of the State of West Virginia and cannot be used as the same in any court of law as a defense to charges of illegal conduct.

Download the hunting guide in pdf format here.

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