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Season Results


West Virginia bear hunters harvested a state record 1,362 bruins during the combined archery and firearms seasons (Table 1). This harvest total is 34 (3%) more than the previous record of 1,328 established in 2000, and 8% higher than the 1,253 killed in 2001. Black bear hunting opportunities have expanded greatly over the past five years to include a statewide archery season, additional gun hunting, and special November gun seasons in five southern counties where bear populations are above management objectives. Bear seasons have been adjusted with respect to the biological and sociological carrying capacities of each region.


Bowhunters checked in 729 bears, 55% higher than the previous archery record of 470 set in 2001. West Virginia biologists recently analyzed over 20 years of data that showed a correlation between bear archery harvests and mast (natural food) conditions. During years of poor hard mast production, bears concentrate their movements around available food supplies, making them more vulnerable to bowhunters in October and November. The low hard mast production in 2002 was the main factor for the record harvest. The top five archery counties were Randolph (136), Greenbrier (78), Nicholas (67), Webster (67), and Pocahontas (51).


The total kill in the five southern counties during the early gun season with dogs and the first week of buck season without dogs was 219 bears. The harvest during the early November season with dogs was 134 bruins, led by Nicholas (37), and followed by Kanawha (35), Fayette (26), Boone (23), and Raleigh (13). Nicholas County with 27 also led in harvest during the first week of buck season (total 85), followed by Kanawha (22), Boone (16), Fayette (12), and Raleigh (8).


December bear hunters checked in 414 bears bringing the total 2002 firearms harvest to 633. This is 19% below the 783 harvest in 2001. Biologists had predicted a record statewide bow kill and a very depressed December gun harvest based on record low hard mast food conditions. Sparse availability of acorns, beechnuts, and hickory nuts tends to cause bears to den early, making them less vulnerable to December gun hunters. Top December gun counties were Pocahontas (62), Randolph (55), Pendleton (46), Webster (42), and Greenbrier (41). The top overall firearms counties (including November seasons) were Nicholas (84), Kanawha (64), Pocahontas (62), Randolph (55), and Fayette (51).


Counties with best overall harvests were Randolph (191), Nicholas (151), Greenbrier (119), Pocahontas (113), and Webster (109).


Sex ratios of bow harvested bears (65% male, 35% female) were similar to sex ratios (67% male, 33% female) of bruins taken during the December gun season (Table 1). As forecast by biologists, the kill among sexes was nearly equal (51% male, 49% female) during the early November gun season. The harvest during the first week of buck season again showed a trend in taking the male segment (61% male, 39% female). Overall, the 2002 sex ratio was slightly more favored toward males than the 24-year average (Table 2).


The opening day of archery season saw 176 bears checked, which is 24% of the total bow kill. Bowhunters took 230 (31%) bears the first full week, and the take steadily declined as the season progressed (Table 3).


As expected, the first week of the December firearms season yielded the highest weekly harvest (223), accounting for 54% of total kill (Table 4). Increased denning of bears, plus grueling crust conditions affecting dogs running abilities, resulted in much lowered kills the remaining weeks. However, the harvest did pick up the last few days of December with improved ground conditions (and healed hounds) with 11% of the total December kill the last two days.

Written by William K. Igo and Thomas L. Dotson

Click On Links Below For PDF Versions of Tables 1-4

Table 1. West Virginia Black Bear Harvest By Season, County, and sex, 2002.
(PDF format, 10.2KB)

Table 2. Sex Ratios of West Virginia Black Bears For November Gun Season, Bow Season, And December Gun Season, 1964-2002.
(PDF format, 5.21KB)

Table 3. West Virginia Black Bear Bow Harvest By First Day And Week of Season, 2002.
(PDF format, 4.45KB)

Table 4. West Virginia Black Bear December Gun Harvest By Week of Season, 2002.
(PDF format, 4.45KB)

Click here to get acrobat reader (You will need Acrobat Reader to view these files)

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