Local hunters are drawing their bows in preparation for Wheeling's annual urban deer hunt, which gets under way Sept. 7.
Permits are available at the city manager's office on the third floor of the City-County Building. The urban deer hunt season runs through Dec. 31, and hunters can obtain permits at any time during the season.
Bowhunting only is permitted within city limits, and hunting is forbidden within 300 feet of any dwelling, including the hunter's own. Participants may harvest up to seven deer within city limits that do not count toward their regular deer season bag limit. By state law, only two deer harvested during the urban hunt may be antlered, however, and the first must be antlerless.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Urban deer bowhunting season is set to begin in Wheeling and Bethlehem on Sept. 7.
Hunters must present a valid hunting license and proof that they've successfully completed an International Bowhunter Education Program-certified course at the city manager's office. Participants will receive a postcard on which they must log information about their harvest, which must be returned to the city by Jan. 31 regardless of whether a hunter actually harvested a deer.
Those hunting on property other than their own must have written permission from the landowner in their possession while hunting. This includes city-owned property, according to Judy Beabout, secretary to City Manager Robert Herron.
She pointed to the city-owned former North Park Landfill, which is a popular hunting ground for urban bowhunters each year.
"We limit the number of folks that can be there per day to 10, for safety's sake, and it works," Beabout said.
Beabout said nine hunters had sought permits as of Thursday, but she expects that to increase as opening day approaches, as well as throughout the fall as many hunters prefer cooler weather. About 55 signed up last year, in addition to approximately 65 hunters who possess lifetime permits.
Beabout said it's usually many of the same people who participate each year, which may be due in part to increased difficulty in finding instructors who offer the city-required safety education course. She said two Wheeling men who used to teach the course no longer do.
Steve Rauch, district wildlife biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said hunters harvested 443 deer statewide during urban bowhunts last year, 50 of them in Wheeling. He said those numbers have been on the rise since the state increased hunters' annual limit from two deer to seven.
In addition to Wheeling, Weirton and Bethlehem also will hold urban deer hunts. Weirton's runs from Sept. 30 through Dec. 21. Hunters there are required to attend one of three pre-hunt meetings at the Thomas E. Millsop Community Center, set for 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday and again at 6 p.m. Sept. 18.
Bethlehem will follow the same schedule as Wheeling - Sept. 7 through Dec. 31. Permits are available at the village office, located at 1 Community St.