By GOV. JOE MANCHIN

CHARLESTON -- West Virginia has become a popular destination for hunters from across the country, and wildlife associated recreation brings more than $750 million in our state each year.

As the weather gets cooler and the leaves change, it means hunting season is upon us.

I enjoy hunting, so much that I established annual One Shot competition in our state three years ago and the December event gets bigger and better with each passing year. As the Co-Chairman of the Governors Sportmen's Caucus and as a governor of an 80 percent forested state, I promote hunting and the outdoors as much as I can, because I know it is a top attraction for visitors.

Because West Virginia is mostly rural with mixed hardwood forests and small farms, it is an ideal habitat for whitetail deer. Deer populations abound in every county, and liberal hunting seasons and bag limits increase the chances for a successful hunting adventure. Our wildlife management experts have worked with outdoors lovers to provide additional opportunities for the thousands of people who enjoy hunting in our state.

We've extended hunting seasons this fall for antlerless deer in counties where it coincides with population management objectives, including on private property where landowners may open their land to additional hunting opportunities. Special days for youth hunters and families are also part of the mix to encourage youngsters and even entire families to enjoy this traditional outdoor sport.

Hunting is a great sport to bring families and friends together in West Virginia's remarkable outdoors. If you enjoy hunting, invite friends who have never been hunting before and teach them the fun and excitement a day in the woods can bring.

A word of caution: safety is the most important part of our state's great hunting tradition. In most instances, hunters are required to pass a Hunter Safety Education class before they can purchase hunting licenses.

These classes have been successful in reducing the number of hunting-related injuries and fatalities during hunting seasons, and it just makes good sense to make sure your hunting adventure is a safe one.

DNR can help you find a class in your area, and point you in the direction of public and private land where you can enjoy your deer hunt. Call your local district DNR office, the main office in South Charleston at 304-558-2771, or go online at www.wvdnr.gov for lots of useful information to help you prepare for the fall hunting seasons.

Manchin in governor of West Virginia.

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