CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) – Some West Virginia hunting seasons have already begun, and deer season is approaching fast. If you’re a beginner in the woods, here are some tips from the West Virginia Division for Natural Resources that can help you make your first hunt successful.

When are the seasons?

Squirrel and bear seasons have already started in West Virginia for 2022, but most hunters in the state are looking forward to deer season. Deer bow season begins Sept. 24, gun season kicks off Oct. 20, and buck season starts Nov. 21. Fall turkey season also begins in October. Dates for seasons are determined by the Natural Resources Commission each year, so the dates for 2023-2024 and so on will be slightly different. Dates for all seasons in 2022-2023 can be found here.

What license do I need?

Licensing for hunting in West Virginia can get pretty complicated. Those who want to shoot deer need at least a Hunting and Trapping (Class A) license and a Conservation Stamp, which would cost $24 plus a processing fee. Hunters between ages 19 and 64 can purchase a Class X license, which includes the clearances of Class A, B and BG licenses and the Conservation Stamp for $35 plus a processing fee.

All persons born on or after January 1, 1975, must either successfully complete a certified hunter education course before purchasing a base hunting license or be approved for the Apprentice Hunting License which does not require the course. A full list of valid license combinations can be found here.

West Virginia also offers lifetime hunting licenses for $805 for adults. Certain unique and even free licenses are also available for military personnel, veterans, children (under 15) and those over 65 years old.

Information on how to get a hunting license in West Virginia can be found here.

What is a bag limit?

Each season has a limit for the number of deer that hunters can take—per day and per season—and the number that someone can possess at one time. For example, bear hunters can harvest a maximum of one bear per day during season and a total of two bears during each season. Squirrel hunters can take up to six per day during season with no limit total season limit.

For deer, it is a little more complicated. In general, deer hunters can take two deer per day during buck season as long as one of the deer is unantlered, but limits for deer vary by which county you are hunting in. Specific limits can be found on pages 15-17 and 20 of this document. Certain areas of public lands also have unique limitations which can be found on pages 18-19. During buck season, the season limit is one per day during season and two per season total.

If you want to harvest more than the bag limit, stamps for your license must be purchased prior to the season beginning. More information about additional stamps can be found here.

Where to hunt

Many hunters in the state hunt on their own land or get permission to hunt on other residents’ land, but the state also has public hunting grounds, including 92 Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) which make up 8% of the land in West Virginia. Rules for using West Virginia WMAs can be found here.

Before you go hunting you should…

  • Shoot your weapon before a season starts with the same arrows or ammunition you plan to use while hunting. Changing arrow weights or an ammunition’s bullet weight could drastically affect accuracy.
  • Check gun sights to make sure they weren’t bumped or shifted while in storage.
  • If bow hunting, check bow strings for fraying and bow arms for cracks. If either breaks during a draw, there is the potential for serious harm.
  • If bow hunting, make sure broadheads are sharp, which will aid in a quick, ethical kill.
  • Check all tree stand straps and the safety harness for wear and replace anything that shows signs of fraying.

You should also make sure you are packing everything you will need. The WVDNR recommended the following packing list to make sure you are prepared for your hunt.

  • West Virginia Hunting License
  • Appropriate firearm 
  • Appropriate clothes to hunt in
  • Dry change of clothes
  • A water bottle with extra water
  • A rain jacket in case of rainy days
  • A small backpack
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent

You got one! Now what?

After you harvest an animal, it should be checked in and field tagged. The check-in can be done online using your DNR number; this will give you a game check-in number, which should be written on a piece of paper or field tag along with your name, address, the date and time of the kill and the county it took place in, and then attached to the animal. For deer, it is usually put in the animal’s ear.