WOOD COUNTY, W.Va.-(WTAP) Update: 11/19/2018 5:45 P.M.
For a lot of hunters, it's more than a sport. It's a way of life-and a way of putting food on the table, preferably until the next deer season rolls around.
"I cut them up myself, I skin them, I do my own processing," said hunter Jeff Hitt of Parkersburg, one of thousands of hunters out on the first day of deer-gun season Monday. "We used to have five in the house, and we'd go through four or five deer a year pretty easily. Now, two's a plenty."
An estimated 250,000 hunters are expected to be out this and next week, and West Virginia conservation officials say there's plenty of healthy deer to go around.
And these days, they can be checked online, an even on a hunter's cell phone.
"If they killed a deer on their own property, under the old system, you would have to load the deer in a truck, drive out to a check station and check that deer in," says Sgt. Roger Jennings, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. "Now, they just simply check the deer in from wherever they take them."
That's why you don't see a lot of game checking stations any more, although hunters still stop by stores like the Rockport General Store on route 21 for supplies.
And while they may not be out in the number of the past, some never miss this time of year.
"I'll be home for Thanksgiving," Hitt says. "The rest of the time, I'll be out here."
Thanksgiving week may be "turkey week" for some people. But for a lot of Mountain State residents-and some in neighboring states-it's the first week of deer season.
Local gun and outdoor shops have been busy this week, with West Virginia's deer-gun season set to start Monday.
And, for the first time in some West Virginia counties, hunters will be required to take a doe before taking a second buck.
But experts tell us the main safety rules of hunting still apply.
"We have some hunters sometimes, who will fall out of a tree stand and get injured," says Sgt. Roger Jennings, of the state Division of Natural Resources. "The main thing to know about tree stands, is make sure you wear a harness, and make sure your equipment is good and safe."
"Keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to fire, and be sure of what's behind your target," Greg Smith, owner of Henderson Wilds near Williamstown, adds. "Be safe; know what you're shooting at, and identify your game. And when you are shooting at a game, be sure of your target."
Smith also says hunters should have a plan for their time in the woods, so friends and relatives know when they plan to be home.
The DNR says the state's deer-gun season runs from November 19th to December 1.