Backwoods Bowhunting in West Virginia

Backwoods Bowhunting in West Virginia

If you're an Eastern bowhunter, chances are you long to sample the wild flavor of chasing big game in the American West. Who doesn't? Huge, scenic country with plenty of wildlife and elbow room inspires us all.

Bow-only Logan County is West Virginia's all-time leader in Pope & Young whitetails, and it keeps producing. That's where Bucky Sargent tagged this bruiser in November 2014.

But dreaming of the West and actually going there can be two different things. For most Eastern bowhunters, the realities of distance, time and money make stalking the Rockies more a fantasy than a plan. And so, most continue to wish they could go, instead of actually going.

If this describes your situation, I have encouraging news. You can get a lot of the same elements of a Western bowhunting adventure without even crossing the Ohio River. Just point your truck toward the wilds of West Virginia.

Luke Humphreys was just 15 when he shot this Pope & Young buck in Kanawha County. Luke got the deer in November 2012, while bowhunting coal and gas company land.

The Mountain State rarely gets much press as a trophy whitetail destination, but it should. The steep, wooded ridges of the Appalachian Mountains house a surprising number of Pope & Young-class bucks.

One look at the countryside and you know you'll have to work for them. There's little flat, open land, especially in the southern counties that harbor a lot of the Mountain State's P&Y deer. But the challenge of the habitat heavily contributes to the number of trophies.

So does the management plan. Since 1979, four of the state's most southerly counties — Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming — have had no legal firearms hunting for deer. While deer densities are lower than in many other parts of the nation, the lack of legal gun hunting means a fair percentage of bucks reach maturity.


As you can tell from the accompanying map of P&Y entries, the bow-only counties are all good. Logan is perhaps the best of the bunch, leading the state in all-time entries, but anywhere in this part of the state has big-buck potential.

In general, the map suggests the western half of West Virginia is the part to focus on for big deer. Of course, not all trophy bow bucks here (or anywhere else) end up being officially measured and then entered, but available data point toward the bow-only counties and several bordering the Ohio River as having the best odds. Since 2010, Kanawha County (home to the state capital of Charleston) has joined Logan, Wyoming and McDowell as the most productive counties for P&Y entries.

There's a lot of public land across the state, and some of these tracts are large. Private lands held by coal-mining interests and timber companies also are expansive, and some of these can still be hunted by permission. Throw in the reasonable price of over-the-counter deer tags, and West Virginia becomes a viable option for the DIY bowhunter who wants to get away from it all without breaking the bank.

Of course, the wild nature of the land means that, as much as anywhere else in the East — and maybe even more than the West — you must do your homework. That includes study or aerial imagery, then ground truthing to confirm what you think you're seeing on those photos. You can pretty much forget hunting obvious field edges or food plots, as deer here feed mainly on native browse and mast. That said, where coal lands have been reclaimed, some plantings of clover and other forages do draw in game.

In short, West Virginia is still a pretty wild place filled with options for old-school sportsmen to bowhunt trophy bucks in an untamed environment. For those who don't mind a taking on a rugged challenge, the opportunity for bargain bucks still is to be found in this land of big woods and rushing waters.

Popular Videos

Putting a New Spin on an Old Whitetail Hunt

Gordon Whittington returns home to Texas to relive one of his favorite deer hunts of all-time, and make new memories.

Deer Dog: Puppy Pitfalls

On this edition of "Deer Dog," Jeremy Moore explores the pitfalls of puppy training.

Creating Warm-Season Food Plots

On this edition of "Deer Factory," Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan discuss tactics for establishing warm-season food plots.

See more Popular Videos

More United States

United States

Hidden New Jersey Whitetails

Gordon Whittington - September 25, 2017

To bowhunters who aren't in the know, New Jersey might seem the last place to go looking for a

United States

Oklahoma Hunting Can Be Top Notch

Gordon Whittington - May 04, 2017

Ask most people what they think of when someone mentions Oklahoma, and the answer is likely to

United States

The Scoop On Bowhunting in Tennessee

Gordon Whittington - October 16, 2017

For a state over 400 miles wide, with whitetails found in numbers from one end to the other...

See More United States

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.