Firearms season for deer opens tomorrow in Virginia and West Virginia and officials in the Old Dominion say this year's harvest could exceed last season's record of 67,059.
Virginia game biologist supervisor Jack Gwynn said deer populations are high across the state after good reproduction conditions last spring. He said last year's crop of acorns and other mast was excellent, and that produced a good holdover deer population.
The mast crop this year was spotty, he said, which means a hard winter may lie ahead for deer that survive the hunting season.
"We're hoping for a mild winter and a good (hunter) harvest" to cut down on the danger of winter starvation, Gywnn said.
Some counties in southeastern portions of the state have a three-deer season limit this year. Some of the mountain counties close to Washington have a two-deer season limit, including Culpeper, Rappahannock, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Prince William. The daily limit in all counties is one.
Last year the biggest harvest came in one of the three-deer-limit counties, Southampton, where 3,112 white-tails were taken by hunters. Other areas of high yield: Caroline County, 2,248; Powhatan, 2,136, Amelia, 2,160; Rockingham 1,941; Bath, 1,892.
Gwynn said that hunters planning to use public national forest land probably will do better in the George Washington National Forest than in Jefferson Forest, where deer populations are lower.
The public lands hotbed for deer hunters in the Washington area is Quantico Marine Base, where 1,066 whitetails were taken last year. Unfortunately, Quantico officials said hunter pressure there is acute and few spaces are likely to available for the first week of the season.
Officials said that prospective hunters are turned away from the base every day for lack of room, and the pressure is highest during the early part of deer season.
In order to hunt Quantico, one must have astate license, a $2 base permit and have completed the base hunter safety course, a 25-minute lecture offered every day but Sunday at 5:30 a.m. and noon.
To be sure of a spot, hunters must sign up the day before between 4:30 and 6 p.m. at the base wildlife headquarters. Remaining spots are allocated first-come, first-served at 5:30 a.m. the day of the hunt.
Statewide, Gwynn said he expects the opening-day deer harvest to be lower than it might because neighboring West Virginia is opening its season the same day.
Maryland officials expect a good deer harvest. Deer project leader Robert Miller said the bag probably will exceed 11,000 animals, which would mean a 10 percent increase over last year's take.
Miller said there has been growth in the state herd, particularly in the southern counties of the Eastern Shore.
Maryland firearms season opens Saturday. Pennsylvania, where more than 145,000 deer were taken last year, opens it season Nov. 27.
The fire danger in Virginia forests has been reduced by rain this week, but Game Commission spokesman Curly Satterlee said little rain has fallen in the Shenandoah Valley and that area remains "critically dry."
However, there is no longer any consideration being given to closing any areas because of the drought. Excess Permits Issued
Maryland has an excess of permits to take antlerless deer in the upcoming whitetail season.
Gene Doems of the National Resources Department said 6,500 permits remained for nine counties after the annual drawing this year. Some of the counties are close to Washington.
The excess permits will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis this week, except Thanksgiving, at seven DNR service centers.
The counties and the number of permits available in each: Howard (615); Montgomery (1,348): Baltimore (1,735); Harford (681; Prince George's (412); Anne Arundel (532; Charles (1,487); St Marys (1,451), and Zone Two in Cecil County (870).
Permits for any county can be picked up at any of the service centers. The centers and their locations: Western Region, Naves Crossroads, Cumberland; Central Region, 103 N. Main St., Belair, and Queen Anne's County Office Building, Centreville; Southern Region, 29 C. St., Laurel, and Baptist Church Road and Rts. 5, Mechanicsville; Eastern Region, Rte. 50 and Cypress Street, and Tawes State Office Building, Annapolis.
Hunters do not have to appear in person, but their licenses must be presented.