If you’re looking for the best public hunting land in West Virginia’s northern panhandle, look no further. There are several options available to you, the public land hunter. The northern panhandle of West Virginia has seven different parcels of public hunting land. You may not know it, but most likely there is a piece of WV public hunting land near you. In this article we’ll break down all of the choices so your West Virginia hunting season is a success.
Hillcrest WMA is a 2,212 acre wildlife management area in Hancock County, West Virginia.
Hunting midwest private farmland may be the ultimate goal, but hunting West Virginia public land is the ultimate challenge.
Hillcrest WMA is unlike any of the other wildlife management areas on our list. A quick glance at the map reveals an even mix of small woodlots and open fields.
Not only is it a huge expanse of public land, but it contains many of the land features hunters desire.
The farm to field ratio creates the classic midwest whitetail food to bedding pattern. The fields consist of old overgrown orchards and fields planted by the WV DNR.
This may be as close to hunting on private farmland as you can get on while on WV public hunting land.
Despite its huge size for hunting property the northern panhandle of West Virginia, Hillcrest WMA is surrounded by homes and the nearby Oak Glen High School.
Because of this, hunting with a rifle is not permitted at Hillcrest WMA during the West Virginia deer season.
Hunters are permitted use muzzleloaders to hunt antlered whitetail deer during the West Virginia buck firearms season.
To learn more about Hillcrest WMA, a great option for public hunting land in Hancock County check out our overview HERE.
Cross Creek WMA
If you like spot and stalk deer hunting during West Virginia’s buck rifle season, Cross Creek WMA’s topography offers a suitable terrain for your hunting adventure.
Cross Creek Wildlife Management Area, like many of the other large West Virginia wildlife management areas, is broken up into multiple sections.
The southwest portion of the public hunting land is steep and hilly. However, the northeast portion of Cross Creek against the Pennsylvania state border is much flatter. It is reclaimed surface mine land and differs greatly from the other portion.
Check the topography map of Cross Creek WMA below. As you can see, the lines are farther apart from one another at the northern section of the public land. This denotes flatter, more gently rolling terrain.
If sitting in a treestand all day isn’t your definition of fun, start your hunt at the northernmost parking lot. On either side of Amspoker Road you will find low brushy vegetation. You won’t find many trees sutaible for climbing so look here if you prefer to spot and stalk as opposed to hunting deer from a treestand.
For a more thorough look Cross Creek WMA check out our complete guide HERE.
Castleman Run WMA
Castleman Run WMA is an 836 acre wildlife management area in both Brooke County and Ohio County.
Remote and rugged. If this is what you’re looking for in your West Virginia public land hunting adventure, Castleman Run WMA has you covered.
Located 5 miles south of Bethany College, Castleman Run WMA has steep hillsides and large tracts of adjacent, undeveloped property.
You get the feeling of being in a much larger area, despite the property being less than 1000 acres.
Wear good boots – you’ll be doing a lot of hiking on this hunt. Parking along the road will have you entering from the lowest elevation.
The hill climbs are ready to burn out your legs. If you are lucky and have a successful hunt, your pack out may be all down hill.
To learn all about Castleman Run WMA take a look at our overview HERE.
Bear Rock Lakes WMA
Bear Rock Lakes Wildlife Management Area is a 242 acre wildlife management area in Ohio County, West Virginia.
Fishing may be the primary focus of this West Virginia public land, but don’t overlook Bear Rock Lakes this hunting season. With 3 bodies of water and creeks flowing through it, these sloping hillsides are calling your name.
Atop the ridges, the fields are planted by the WV DNR. These are good food sources for deer and other big game species you can use to your advantage while hunting.
While these features make Bear Rock Lakes a great option for bowhunting in West Virginia, a property this small can get crowded quickly during rifle season.
With the leaves off the trees you can see across the lake to adjacent ridges quite easily. The hunter orange stands out and makes it feel like you are hunting right next to people, despite being a couple hundred yards apart. That still may be too close for comfort for some.
If you are looking for wide open terrain to roam, Bear Rock Lakes WMA in Ohio County probably is not the destination for you. But don’t worry, West Virginia’s northern panhandle does possess the property sizes you seek.
ADDED BONUS – Bear Rock Lakes WMA is one exit and less than 5 miles away from the Wheeling Cabelas, a great place to visit for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.
Burches Run WMA
Burches Run WMA is a 55 acre wildlife management area in Marshall County, West Virginia.
At 55 aces, Burches Run WMA is the smallest wildlife management area on the list. Because of this, it is hardly suitable for hunting.
The West Virginia public land borders are always clearly marked but you still must be mindful of property boundaries.
When hunting, it is important that a wounded animal doesn’t leave the property you are on. On a property the size of Burches Run, your deer will most likely end up on the adjacent property.
Because of this, I would avoid hunting at Burches Run WMA. However, this West Virginia public land still provides Marshall County with a good opportunity to fish on the lake.
Dunkard Fork WMA
Dunkard Fork WMA is a 465 acre wildlife management area in Marshall County, West Virginia.
Dream of paddling away from crowded public hunting land and accessing hard to reach areas? Well Dunkard Fork WMA has what you are looking for.
Install your roof rack on grab your kayak. Dunkard Fork wildlife management area’s 465 acres surrounds a lake and stream that flows from Pennsylvania into WV.
Much of that land is hard to access from the main parking area. If you slide your kayak into the water, however, you are a short paddle away to a much bigger hunting area.
Using the water you can access from the west, with the predominant wind of West Virginia blowing in your face. Additionally, anyone trying to walking in the direction of your hunting spot has the wind at their backs. This will blow their scent towards the deer and force them right in your direction.
Many consider Dunkard Fork a hot spot for bass fishing in West Virginia. While this article has mainly focused on deer hunting in WV, If it’s a spring turkey hunt you’re planning you could combo a 2 for 1 trip and cast a line from your hunting kayak after your turkey hunting ends at noon.
Cecil H. Underwood WMA
Underwood WMA is a 2,522 acre wildlife management area in both Marshall County and Tyler County, West Virginia. It is the only public hunting land in Tyler County WV on our list.
The last, and largest piece of WV public hunting land on our list, is the Cecil H Underwood WMA. This wildlife management area is comprised of three separate units. The smallest being only 90 acres located due west from the main WMA.
Lots of property means lots of parking lots. Parking lots are one way to evaluate hunter activity in the area.
One thing I look for when hunting West Virginia public land is other vehicles parked nearby. Cars and trucks parked alongside the road during hunting season means hunters nearby.
When hunting a property as big as Cecil H. Underwood WMA you want to be able to get away from the crowd. Have a few spots in mind and be flexible.
Cruise the perimeter of the property and and if someone is parked close to your planned hunting spot, cross it off the list for the day and head to your backup spot.
Expect the unexpected when you’re on West Virginia public hunting land. It’s always important to be prepared, and having multiple spots to hunt on a single property is crucial to finding success.
It can take some practice, but adapting on the fly will allow you to capitalize on opportunities you may have otherwise missed.
BONUS TIP: Scouting the parking lots can be just as helpful as scouting for deer. During the WV hunting season I like to drive past my favorite public hunting land when I’m in the area. I use that time to see if any other hunters are using the property. This can help me determine a gameplan for upcoming hunts.
Hunting WV Public Land
Hunting public land is challenging. Step outside your comfort zone and experience more of what West Virginia has to offer. There are 96 wildlife management areas in WV to choose from when planning your next hunt. Try something new this hunting season and bring home a trophy from West Virginia public land.
Remember, to hunt on WV public hunting land you must have a West Virginia hunting license and a valid ID. Additionally, you should be sure to stay date on all of the West Virginia hunting rules and regulations. West Virginia hunting regulations and topographical maps of all the WV public hunting land can be found online at the WV DNR website.