West Virginia isn’t known as a big buck state. But The Mountain State is a great destination if you’re just looking to fill a tag. Hunters killed over 135,000 deer in West Virginia in 2011. If you’re still focused on antlers, think of West Virginia as an up and coming state. There are a few counties with archery only regulations and some areas have antler point restrictions. It won’t be long before these management strategies start paying off with tape measure bucks. There is still plenty of trophy potential with a few bucks scoring in the 160s taken every year. Another great thing about deer hunting in West Virginia is the many public land opportunities. You will find over 1.3 million acres of public hunting land in West Virginia. Here are some of the top producing public land spots.
Monongahela National Forest
This is West Virginia’s largest concentration of public hunting land. With over 900,000 acres in ten counties. Whitetails were never officially wiped out here but during the early part of the 20th century the population was thought to have been nearly zero. 25 deer from Michigan were released in the forest in the thirties and by the 1940s the Monongahela National Forest was home to a rapidly growing deer population. The forest is the state’s top producing public hunting area for bucks with 1164 antlered bucks registered in 2011. The Potomac unit was the top local region for deer hunters.
George Washington & Jefferson National Forest
These forests cover over one million acres with about 120,000 acres within West Virginia borders. Like Monongahela, the terrain is very steep and hunting here isn’t for those who are out of shape. The mountainous terrain is covered with mostly oak and hickory forest. 207 antlered bucks were taken in the West Virginia units in 2011.
Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area
This property covers nearly 23,000 acres in Berkeley and Morgan counties. The terrain is mountainous and covered mostly with Virginia pine-oak forest. However, 3,500 acres are pure hardwood forest stands of oak and hickory. Sleepy Creek led the way for buck harvest on state owned properties with 126 antlered deer taken in 2011. Rustic camping sites are available for hunters who wish to sleep where they hunt.
Stonewall Jackson Lake Wildlife Management Area
Unlike the mountain forests described above, Stonewall Jackson Lake WMA sits on reclaimed farmland. The rolling hills are slowly going back to forests but there are plenty of open fields and trails throughout the 18,000 acres. The 2,600 acre lake is part of a project operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. Many savvy hunters use the lake as a way to beat the crowds often found on public hunting lands. Bring a boat and cross the lake to access more private-like hunting.
Chief Cornstalk Wildlife Management Area
Mason County ranks among the best counties in West Virginia for deer hunting and Chief Cornstalk Wildlife Management Area has over 11,000 acres of prime deer hunting real estate within it. There is considerable competition for top hunting spots here but weekday hunters and those who walk a little further can find a spot to themselves. You will find gently rolling hills covered with hardwoods forest and a smattering of clearings.
Elk Creek Wildlife Management Area
This 6,000 acre property is located in Logan and Mingo Counties, one of West Virginia’s top buck producing areas. Logan County is archery only so bucks have a better chance of surviving to maturity. The terrain is made up of steep slopes and narrow valleys covered with hardwood forests. Elk Creek WMA doesn’t have the acreage of the above national forests. But thanks to the terrain, those who are willing to work a little harder can find solitude.
Other top locations in West Virginia for public land deer hunting include Anawalt Lake WMA, Cal Price State Forest, Hughes River WMA, Lewis Wetzel WMA, Nathaniel Mountain WMA, Panther State Forest, Seneca State Forest, and Tug Valley WMA.