The Division of Natural Resources is saying there is another factor that contributed to last year's 31 percent deer harvest decline.

Steve Brown, a DNR senior planner, says part of the drop-off occurred because 12,000 fewer hunters ventured to the woods.

License sales plunged in January, February and March of 2010 and never recovered.

"We can safely say that several thousand deer didn't get killed because 12,000 potential hunters didn't buy licenses ... and didn't go deer hunting," Brown said.

Most of the decline had been blamed on one of the worst mast crops in 30 years the previous winter, causing many deer to starve.

Brown said that hunters who ordinarily purchase combined hunting-and-fishing "sportsman" licenses during the months of January, February and March, simply didn't bother in 2010.

Another possible factor in last year's license-buying decline was a $1 license-fee increase for West Virginia residents and 8 percent increase for non-residents.

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