Hunters are encouraged to conduct preseason scouting and equipment checks

Posted on 09/07/2016

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. - September marks the opening of a number of hunting seasons across West Virginia, including squirrel (Sept. 10) and archery deer and bear (Sept. 24). It's also a good time to spend in the woods scouting your favorite hunting areas, according to Ethan Barton, Division of Natural Resources (DNR) assistant District 2 wildlife biologist.

"By September, you should be able to get a very good idea about mast conditions in the areas where you hunt," Barton said. "Both hard and soft mast crops are well-developed by this time of year. Acorns should be easily visible on oak trees and grape clusters should be easy to spot hanging from vines."

According to Barton, mast quality and quantity are important guides for hunters assessing the area for hunting potential.

"If acorn crops are spotty in the area where you hunt, finding white oaks that are producing and hanging your tree stand near them could get you a good chance at the deer or bear you've been after. White oak acorns are among the most palatable wild food crops for game animals in the state," Barton said.

"Grapes are an excellent food source for bears and turkeys, and although fall turkey season is a month away, finding areas with grapes where the birds are now could serve you well when fall season opens," Bardon advised.

Archery hunters should be well into practice by this point in the year, and tree stand hunters should be practicing from various stand heights and angles. If you have any doubts about your archery equipment, take it to your nearest pro shop and have it checked by a qualified professional. Improper tuning of compound bows and crossbows can hamper accuracy, and frayed strings can be dangerous for hunters. It's also important to check your arrows and broadheads.

If you hunt from a tree stand, you should also check your safety harness for damage or wear. Replacing a worn or damaged safety harness could save your life in the event of a slip or fall.

Rifle hunters should get their rifles zeroed in well before the seasons open. When sighting in a rifle, be sure to shoot from a solid rest and be sure the rifle's bore is clean. Some rifle bores, particularly 0.22 squirrel rifles with shallow rifling grooves, can suffer from lead fouling if they are not regularly cleaned.

"Lead fouling reduces accuracy and could cost you a chance at the game you intend to put on the dinner table," Barton said.

It's also important to check your ammunition, particularly if you have decided to change loads. Bullets of the same weight but different ballistic profiles – for example, a pointed bullet versus a round-nose – often don't shoot to the same point of aim, and impact points of similar loads from different manufacturers can differ by a few inches.

For more information on hunting season dates and bag limits, consult your West Virginia 2016-17 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary, available from all license retailers, DNR district offices and from the DNR website If you have additional questions about regulations or seasons, call your local DNR district office.