By Fred Pace
BECKLEY, W.Va. — Monday was the start of West Virginia’s two-week gun-buck season and it doesn’t only mean big bucks for hunters, it’s economic impact also means “big bucks” for West Virginia.
“It’s one of the biggest economic events in West Virginia, the opening day of gun-buck season,” said Hoy Murphy, public information officer with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “From sporting goods to hospitality services, hunters boost sales in the Mountain State.”
Murphy says hunting is a multimillion dollar industry in West Virginia.
“The overall deer season, which also includes muzzleloading and archery hunting, brings in around $233 million in economic impact a year to our state’s economy,” he said. “That’s a considerable sum.”
Hunters have spent the past week buying ammunition and warm clothes for the upcoming season.
“That can mean a temporary economic boost for sporting goods stores and other service industries,” Murphy said. “Hunters will not only buy hunting supplies, but food and gas and some will even stay in hotels.”
Murphy says hunting season is especially important to many rural communities.
“A large amount of their annual incomes comes from this hunting season,” he said. “Many rural businesses are depending on it, but no matter what business you’re in, you benefit by deer hunting season in West Virginia.”
Murphy said the DNR is seeing an increase in deer hunting across all ages and genders.
“We see many hunting parties with a father, son and a grandfather,” he said. “It’s our heritage and is passed down from generation to generation. And now we are seeing an increase in the interest of hunting from females and children.”
Murphy says the DNR sells about 320,000 hunting licenses each year.
“We estimate about one-third to one-fourth of all West Virginia households have at least one hunting license,” he explained. “Many households have four or five.”
Murphy estimates about 50,000 to 60,000 out-of-state hunters during the two-week season that lasts until Dec. 2.
“Many of those people have family here, and come home for both hunting and Thanksgiving,” he said.
Last year, hunters killed 56,901 bucks during gun season.
Hunters don’t just help the economy, Murphy says, they can also help people in need.
“Through the West Virginia Hunters Helping the Hungry program hunters can donate a deer,” he explained. “The program is in its 15th year and provides thousands of pounds of venison to hungry West Virginians every year. Last year, 41,000 pounds of venison was donated.”
Murphy says the program is also in desperate need of financial donations.
“It costs about $50 to $60 a deer to get the meat packaged,” he said. “We really rely on private donations and are looking for financial help to keep this wonderful program going.”
Those interested in making a tax deductible donation can call the DNR at 304-558-2771.
Spending money isn’t the only way hunters help the state, according to Murphy.
Murphy says hunting is a big tool the DNR uses to keep the state’s deer population in check and healthy.
“Our hunters don’t realize how important they are to the whole program,” Murphy said. “Hunting is a very important part of our wildlife management plan.”
Murphy also warns motorists to be very careful over the next few weeks.
“Deer will be especially active the next few weeks so keep a close eye out while driving between dusk and dawn,” he said.
For more information about this year’s season, and for a list of game checking stations visit the online Web site at www.wvdnr.gov.
Fred Pace writes for The Register-Herald in Beckley, W.Va.