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The hot zone: if you want a true backcountry-style bowhunt with great trophy potential, give west virginia a hard look.

The Appalachian Mountains are home to a surprising number of Pope & Young-class whitetails. And at the epicenter of this antler production lies rugged West Virginia.

With little land that's either flat or unwooded, the Mountain State is a challenging place to bowhunt. But that's a big part of why some areas have so many big deer. Antler genetics are impressive, and some counties have had no legal gun hunting in decades.

Leading the way for P&Y bucks are four bow-only counties. Logan, Mingo, McDowell and Wyoming all became archery-only in 1979. And there's a lot of public hunting land in the region. The R.D. Bailey Lake area contains 17,280 acres in Mingo and Wyoming counties. McDowell County's Tug Fork area adds another 6,673 acres of bowhunting land. Plus, four wildlife management areas have a trophy focus: Beech Fork (7,531 acres), Bluestone Lake (18,019 acres), Burnsville Lake (12,579 acres) and McClintic (3,655 acres). Coopers Rock State Forest is another 12,713 acres. This is one of the East's top areas for public land trophy bowhunting.

The past decade has seen a slight falloff in P&Y entries in the bow-only counties. An increase in coyote and black bear numbers is cited by some wildlife experts; mast crop failures and poaching are blamed by others. Even so, there are still a lot of big bucks in the region.

As our map shows, Kanawha and a few other counties in central and northern West Virginia have come on lately. Their production since 2010 suggests they're heading in the right direction.

The statewide archery season opens in late September and runs through December. Deer permits are sold over the counter, with nonresident fees being in line with those of most other states in the region. If you want more details on bowhunting in West Virginia, visit: wvdnr.gov. To check out Pope & Young's bowhunting records for all North American big game, go to: pope-young.org.

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BY GORDON WHITTINGTON

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Author:Whittington, Gordon
Publication:North American Whitetail
Geographic Code:1U5WV
Date:Aug 1, 2017
Words:334
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