The fall hunting seasons are about to get underway in West Virginia, and it’s time for hunters to begin scouting both for game and for places to enjoy their sport, either on private or public land.

“We often talk about getting landowner permission before hunting on private land and the ethical standards that should be followed, but we need to also emphasize hunter ethics on public land,” according to Mike Peters, wildlife biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR).

“West Virginia is very fortunate to have 78 wildlife management areas, eight state forests and three national forests totaling more than 1.5 million acres open to the public for hunting, trapping and fishing. This is more than 10 acres of public land for every resident, licensed hunter.

“It sounds like there is plenty of room for everyone, but chances are, if you hunt or trap on public land, you will encounter other outdoor enthusiasts while afield,” Peters said.  “How we conduct ourselves during these encounters may not only determine the success and enjoyment of our hunt but also other outdoor enthusiasts using the same public lands.”

Here are some suggestions that may help you on your next public land hunt to be a more ethical public land user.

  • Make sure you know and understand the regulations for the public land on which you are hunting or trapping. Although many of the regulations among public lands are similar, some may have regulations specific to that area, such as older-aged deer management areas.
  • Be respectful of other hunters and try not to hunt the same area as someone else.
  • Have a back-up plan, and try to scout several areas to hunt. This way, if someone else is already using the area you were planning to hunt, you have other alternatives and your day is not ruined.
  • Some types of hunting, such as dove and waterfowl hunting, can be very social. If another hunter shows up late, invite them to join your group if you have room. Chances are, this will improve both of your hunting experiences because you will not be competing for the same game.
  • If you come across other hunters, ask them where they plan to hunt and tell them where you plan to hunt. Working together, you can increase your chances of not interfering with each other’s hunting and keep everybody safe.  In some situations, more hunters can be a positive factor.
  • If you are going to hunt an area where someone else may already be hunting, proceed with caution and courtesy. Just remember — you would not want someone to interrupt your hunt.
  • Blinds and tree stands should be placed and removed at appropriate times. Placing a tree stand on public land three weeks prior to the season to reserve “your spot” is not only unfair to other hunters but is also illegal. This also applies to leaving a tree stand up all season.
  • Dispose of hides and carcasses from harvested game in a lawful manner. It is illegal to dump deer carcasses on public land.
  • Leave the area in better condition than you found it. Do not leave trash, and if you see trash, pick it up and dispose of it properly.

“The old adage, ‘first come, first served,’ applies in many situations while using public land,” Peters said. “Just remember – public land is for everyone.  As outdoor enthusiasts, we need to treat others using public land the same as we expect to be treated.”

Logo courtesy West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

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