South Charleston, W.Va. – Hunting for small game in West Virginia begins early this year on Sept. 10, 2011 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 Taylor, Chief of the Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Section.
Squirrel – The season runs from Sept. 10, 2011 through Jan. 31, 2012. It is expected that hunters will enjoy this earlier opening date and may take the opportunity to introduce a novice hunter to the joys of squirrel hunting. Hard mast production was excellent across the entire state last year which should produce a bumper crop of “bushytails” this fall. The daily bag limit for squirrels is six.
Ruffed Grouse – The ruffed grouse season opens Oct. 15, 2011 and closes Feb 29, 2012. Statewide brood reports for ruffed grouse are higher this year than the last two years and average chick counts are also higher, indicating a better recruitment year. Grouse hunters should look for areas that provide ample cover and soft mast species such as grape, hawthorn, dogwood and greenbrier. The daily bag limit for grouse is four.
Raccoon – Hunting season for raccoons opens Oct. 15, 2011 and continues through Feb. 29, 2012. With the abundant mast crop from last year, reproduction should have been excellent this spring, so the raccoon population should be higher this year across the entire state. This should be an excellent year to start that young hound as hunters should have a very successful year. The daily bag limit is four.
Rabbit and other small game – Opening day of cottontail rabbit season is Nov. 5, 2011 and continues through Feb. 29, 2012. With the wet spring and early summer rains, herbaceous growth was excellent, providing good food and cover for rabbits. With good early reproductive success, fall numbers should be similar or better than last year. Old fields and brushy pastures are the best habitat types in which to hunt rabbits. Snowshoe hare, bobwhite quail, bobcat, red fox and gray fox seasons also open on Nov. 5, 2011. Hunters should be aware of daily bag limits and season possession limits for each species before taking to the field.
Trapping – Nov. 5, 2011 marks the opening of trapping season for fur-bearing animals in West Virginia. Almost all species benefitted from the abundant mast crop last year, including many of West Virginia furbearers such as bobcat, fox, coyote, mink and raccoon. Mast and increased numbers of prey species that rely on mast translated into an excellent food supply for furbearers. Trappers are reminded that season closing dates vary for the various species.
For more complete information on season dates and bag limits, consult the 2011-2012 Hunting and Trapping Regulations available at all hunting and fishing license agents, DNR District Offices and the DNR website (www.wvdnr.gov).