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Bill to start deer season on Saturday opposed by state DNR

by Shawn Gainer

STAFF WRITER

CHARLESTON -- A bill in the House of Delegates would move the first day of rifle season for bucks to the Saturday before Thanksgiving week for state residents and lifetime hunting license-holders.

However, if the bill becomes law, it will happen over the objections of the state Division of Natural Resources.

The reason H.B. 4378 was introduced was to give students and residents a chance to hunt for a day without missing school or work, said Del. Frank Angotti, D-Harrison, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Angotti said he expects the bill will be voted on by the House on Feb. 23. He said he hasn't yet taken a position on the legislation and wants input from constituents before the bill comes to a floor vote.

Currently, bag limits and hunting season times are set by a seven-member Natural Resources Commission appointed by the governor. The members base decisions on public input and information provided by wildlife biologists, said Hoy Murphy, spokesman for the DNR.

Murphy said Wednesday the DNR recognizes the authority of the Legislature to change the opening day, but added agency officials believe changing it through legislation would set a bad precedent.

"We think wildlife management decisions are better set by the Natural Resources Commission," Murphy said. "There are a lot of pluses to changing opening day, but there are some biological, sociological and frankly, some economic reasons not to do it, too.

"Wildlife management by popular vote is probably not the way to go," Murphy added. "We're curious to see what will happen."

Also, some worry about losing revenue brought in by out-of-state hunters.

Del. Sam Cann, D-Harrison, said Wednesday he thinks it may be best to leave wildlife management decisions to the Natural Resources Commission. However, he added that he believes the commission should examine the issue if it has public support.

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