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Eastern Panhandle buck hunters take to the woods

November 23, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

INWOOD, W.Va. -- Gary Stahl pulled in front of Valley Guns in his big, white Dodge pickup truck Monday. In the bed was a 160-pound buck he had shot earlier in the day.

Stahl, of Inwood, had an up-and-down opening day of West Virginia's two-week rifle season that ends Dec. 12.

Around 6 a.m., he went to his deer stand on land he always hunted only to be told it had new owners, a hunting club, and he was asked to leave.

He dismantled the stand and drove "to a little patch of ground I know between (Interstate) 81 and Route 11," he said. He was carrying the deer stand, which weighs about 50 pounds, to the new spot when he saw four bucks.

"I was bent over with the stand strapped to my back, but I had a shot. I took it and I got him. You do what it takes," he said. "He'll be good eating."


Stahl said he plans to keep hunting through the rest of the week "until I run out of tags." He has two state-issued buck tags and four for doe.

The Shanghai Grocery Store on Tuscarora Pike in northern Berkeley County is a popular check-in station because of its proximity to the state-owned Sleepy Creek Hunting Area.

According to a clerk there, the store had checked in "around 40 deer" by 5 p.m. Monday. "That's fewer than last year, but I don't know why," she said. "It's not normal."

She said about a fourth of the hunters in Sleepy Creek come from out of state.

The Handi Stop gas station and convenience store at the entrance to the Tuscawilla Hills subdivision outside of Charles Town, W.Va., had checked in 18 deer as of 1:30 p.m.

Stephanie Somers, who was working the counter at Blue Ridge Grocery in Jefferson County, said 10 deer were checked in by 3:30 p.m. "That's less than we had last year," she said.

At Shepherdstown's H-Mart, a small downtown convenience store, 19 deer were checked by 4:30 p.m.

By 4 p.m., 10 deer had been taken to the Bakerton Market in Bakerton, W.Va., also in Jefferson County, said Wanda Mason-Ballenger, who owns the store with her husband, Jerry Ballenger.

Jerry and his son, David, went out with their guns at 6 a.m. Monday in pursuit of a whitetail buck but came back empty.

"I only saw one and it was too far away," Jerry said.

Wanda, on the other hand, bagged a deer Monday without firing a shot. A resident came into the store and said a doe had broken a leg jumping a fence in his neighbor's yard and ask her if she wanted it.

"I said yes. He shot it, field dressed it and dropped it on my back steps," she said. "It's already over at Rolling Acres being processed," she said.

Kurt Mong, owner of Rolling Acres Deer Processing near Bedington Crossroads, was busy taking in what hunters had been shooting all day. He had more than 90 carcasses to be processed by 5:30 p.m.

"We're a little ahead of last year," he said.

He charges $60 to cut up a deer, vacuum pack and freeze it. It's $50 more if the deer is not field dressed.

Rick Rogers, district biologist at the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources regional office in Romney, W.Va., said in 2008 hunters killed 67,375 deer. The office covers eight eastern West Virginia counties, including the three in the Eastern Panhandle.

Last year, hunters bagged 855 deer in Berkeley County, 806 in Morgan County and 605 in Jefferson County, Rogers said.

Rogers predicted a larger statewide deer harvest this year because many parts of the state had a poor acorn crop. With a poor crop, deer are more prone to feeding in the open, Rogers said.

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