SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Hunting for small game in West Virginia begins Oct. 9 with the opening of squirrel season. “Squirrel season is very popular with many West Virginia sportsmen. It is a time when hunters can participate in one of their favorite sports and also enjoy the fall beauty of the Mountain State,” said Curtis I. Taylor, Chief of the Wildlife Resources Section of the Division of Natural Resources (DNR).
Squirrel – Hard mast production was very poor across the entire state last year. The poor mast conditions, along with a harsh winter, resulted in low overwinter survival and decreased litter production. These factors have caused squirrel numbers to be lower than in previous years. A recent mast survey conducted by the DNR indicates that mast production for oak and hickory is above the 40-year average while walnut and beech production is slightly lower. Abundant mast and lower squirrel numbers will likely cause “bushytails” to be more scattered and may contribute to more challenging hunts this season. The daily bag limit for squirrels is six. The season runs from Oct. 9 through Jan. 31.
Ruffed Grouse – The ruffed grouse season opens Oct. 16 and closes on Feb. 28, 2011. Statewide, brood counts for ruffed grouse are lower this year than in previous years. However, grouse numbers may still be at levels similar to recent years. Harvest rates for grouse were lower last season because of harsh weather conditions. Grouse hunters should look for areas that provide ample cover and soft mast species such as grape, hawthorn, dogwood and greenbrier. Mast survey results indicate that these species did not produce as well this summer as last. The daily bag limit for grouse is four.
Raccoon – Hunting season for raccoons opens Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. and continues through Feb. 28. Raccoon populations appear to be similar or slightly higher than previous years. Food sources are plentiful this year. Hunters and their hounds should have a very successful season. Raccoon hunters are reminded that the daily bag limit is four.
Rabbit and other small game – Opening day of cottontail rabbit season is Nov. 6. Rabbit populations are expected to be similar or marginally lower than last year. Old fields and brushy pastures are the best habitat types in which to rabbit hunt. Snowshoe hare, bobwhite quail, bobcat, red fox and gray fox hunting seasons also open Nov. 6. Hunters should be aware of daily bag limits and season possession limits for each species.
Trapping – Nov. 6 marks the opening of trapping season for fur-bearing animals in West Virginia. Populations of beaver, bobcat, fox, mink and raccoon are good, and trappers should be very successful. Trappers are reminded that season closing dates vary for the various species.
For more complete information on season dates and bag limits, consult the 2010-2011 Hunting and Trapping Regulations available at all hunting and fishing license agents, DNR District Offices and the DNR website (www.wvdnr.gov).
Curtis Taylor, Wildlife Resources Section