The hunting of white-tailed deer in West Virginia is a cultural, social, and economic phenomenon that transcends all other types of hunting in the state. Approximately half of the state’s 55 counties close their schools during the entire first week of the traditional buck season. The closure is officially called ‘‘Thanksgiving break,’’ but unofficially the reason is the lure of deer hunting. Many West Virginians take time off from work.
West Virginia holds a variety of deer seasons, including archery, antlerless, muzzleloader, and bucks only, with the last the centerpiece. Our deer hunters have a long tradition of being primarily buck hunters, often to the dismay of wildlife officials, who would prefer a more balanced reduction of deer populations. Typically, about one in seven West Virginians buys a license to deer hunt, and a majority of those buy that license specifically for buck season. Approximately 350,000 hunters, including non-residents, take part in buck season. Deer hunting is predominantly a man’s sport.
Surveys have shown that deer hunting in West Virginia generates approximately $150 million in retail sales, with 50 percent of that amount spent in buck season. The economic impact of deer hunting is especially important in rural areas, where 65 percent of our population lives. Also, 78 percent of our deer hunters come from the rural areas of the state.
The social aspect of buck season is significant. Family members gather for the hunt, much as they would for a traditional holiday, and friends and associates make buck season the occasion for a yearly gathering. The old-time mountain deer camp of lore and legend is largely gone, however, because hunting opportunities have spread throughout the state. The custom now is ‘‘backyard hunting,’’ that is, staying at home to hunt. The increase in the deer population in West Virginia, as elsewhere, is startling. Our deer numbers have rebounded from a low of approximately 1,000 in 1910 to current estimates of more than 800,000.
This Article was written by Skip Johnson
Last Revised on July 13, 2012
Allen, Tom & Jack Cromer. "White-tailed Deer in West Virginia," Bulletin. West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, 1977.