Love to hunt, but hate to leaf your honey at home? West Virginia has multiple animal seasons and great couples’ weekends, along with tremendous fall foliage. You can bag a buck and a bear from the same tree stand while your lady digs the festivals. September 28 marked the opening of the Mountain State’s combo archery season, where the bag limit is two bucks and a doe, plus up to two bears. If this sound “crazy generous,” that’s because it’s one of the least publicized hunts in the country.
Bruce Ryan, a hunting buddy in Elkins, invited me to cash in on some of the great game he’d been catching on trail cameras, including a 300-pound black bear and several bucks in the 8-pt.-plus size. I booked a room at Canaan Valley State Park Hotel and I was set for the perfect couples’ weekend. Good news for you, bad news for me: Enter a locust plague of acorns and all the deer, bears, and wild turkeys enjoyed room service, abandoning their previous routines. I stuck to the planned tree stands rather than re-scouting, a tactic that proved unproductive.
West Virginia has always had good deer, but their bear population has expanded to the point that eight counties now have a limit of two — unheard of in the East. Where to hunt is an issue in most cases, yet with 923,000 acres of the Monongahela National Forest easily accessible from areas such as Canaan Valley, Davis, and Elkins, you can hunt all day and never see another person. This year’s incredible acorn crop has game widely scattered, so you’re likely to find animals almost anywhere. Do a little homework online and you’ll be amazed how incredibly diverse this National Forest can be, from the Dolly Sods Wilderness to Spruce Knob, with terrain so high you’ll find real tundra.
October and early November offer a plethora of leaf-peeping festivals and other celebrations which are ideal for couples of all ages. Game processing and taxidermy? Hey, this is West Virginia; any local merchant can head you in the right direction or donate your game to HHH, a venison-for-charity organization.
For hunting rules and regulations. go to the state’s website or pick up a copy at any WV sporting-goods store. The Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins is a real hoot. with everything from hot air balloons to lumberjack contests. The New Tygart Flyer train ride is also very popular, and the links and greens at Canaan Valley Resort State Park are sure to please.