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WV hunters hit the woods for gun season Monday

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SOUTH CHARLESTON (AP) — Some 330,000 deer hunters took to the woods across West Virginia on Monday for the start of a two-week gun season that the Division of Natural Resources predicts will be slightly better than last year.

Hunters bagged 60,157 bucks in the 2011 season, a 38 percent increase over the previous year, said Curtis Taylor, head of the wildlife resources section. This year, every region should see a similar or higher harvest.

Good reproduction and a mild winter last year have translated to an ample supply of 18-month-old animals, and mast conditions are favorable. Taylor said the DNR has also been conducting spotlight counts in many counties and seen plenty of deer with big racks.

The November firearms season opens the Monday before Thanksgiving every year, so the date can be as early as Nov. 19 or as late as Nov. 25. This is one of the earlier years, and that means hunters are heading out closer to the peak deer rut. Hunters have an advantage when deer are active and distracted.

Hunting is big business for the state. Together, hunters spend a combined $230 million, the DNR says, much of that in rural areas where small businesses depend on the income from deer season.

Hunters are limited to two bucks during gun season and three does per year, whether during archery or firearms season.

Buck season runs through Dec. 1 and is open in every county but Logan, Mingo, McDowell and Wyoming.

Sunday buck hunting is legal only on Nov. 25 and only on private land in 10 counties this year. They are: Boone, Brooke, Clay, Hancock, Jefferson, Lincoln, Marshall, Ohio, Wayne and Wetzel.

Hunters who want to donate meat to food pantries through the Hunters Helping the Hungry program can visit the DNR website for information or call (304) 558-2771. Mountaineer and Huntington Food Banks distribute the venison.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.