By Bob Fala Outdoors Columnist
October 27, 2013
Rabbit hunters and trappers are taking a liking to the current times.
For the rabbit folks, WVDNR is projecting better populations per the lush summer plant growth generated by all that rainfall. That greenery now spells for better food and cover for the bunnies.
For trappers, fur prices are at highs not seen since the late 1970s. The abundant fur-bearing wildlife sector has had it pretty easy since those halcyon days. It’s thus kind of nice to kickoff both seasons (Nov. 2) with such a positive backdrop.
Rabbit hunting with beagle packs is traditionally popular here. But it suffers at somewhat the same fate of the upland bird hunter. That is, a continually shrinking brush or favored haunt of Mr. and Mrs. Cottontail. As those brushy hunting patches gradually revert to timber, rabbits have little chance of surviving predation in the open forest. It seems that just as for taxes and death, plant succession or that conversion of open areas to trees continues with proverbial certainty.
It should thus come as no surprise that West Virginia easily maintains its third place rank as one of the most heavily forested states. That being said, the daily bag limit of five seems somewhat of a relict in view of the long-term habitat declines. Nevertheless, savvy bunny chasers go mostly to work their dogs. Several of them “self-regulate,” reducing their take voluntarily to keep their dogs working through the season.
By doing so, they keep that old but golden sweet music of their baying hounds playing as long as possible. They still yet seek out the fresh grass of the coal strip perimeters, roadsides, and abandoned house sites or wherever the hands of man or Mother Nature have done a little clearing of the forest.
With more and more folks crossing over to archery deer hunting only, both the bunny chasers and trappers have another obvious advantage. Their sports should be a lot less crowded than those stated days of yore. At least somewhat per the better prices, a renewed interest in the sport of trapping is brewing.
A wide gamut of furbearers is available to trappers, including: bobcat, fisher, otter and beaver, all of which must be presented at an official game check station. Others species, though not required to be checked in are: muskrat, mink, raccoon, red fox, gray fox, opossum, coyote and weasel.
Trappers are limited to one fisher and otter and three bobcats per season. There is no limit on the other furbearing species. A sampling of opening day prices for top of the line, large finished furs was provided by the Windy Ridge Trapper’s, Jason Stutler, “the preacher who buys furs.” Bobcat and otter were listed at $75; red fox at $36; beaver and gray fox at $26; coyote at $20; raccoon and mink at $17, muskrat at $11 and opossum at $3.
Fur Harvesters Auction, Inc. out of North Bay, Ontario, Canada has reported in with all-time historical gross sales records this year. They cite a dominating Chinese market as a causative factor with particular recognition of the individual species average price record for muskrats at $14.27.
The long and liberal rabbit and trapping seasons remain open through February 28, 2014.