From your photos, and from what I’ve seen in more northern woods, it’s clear we have a more diverse forest understory here in West Virginia, despite logging, strip-mining, and other scourges of the modern world.

I doubt poaching is heavy enough to affect the deer population, but our WV deer hunting season is micromanaged by the DNR to a surprising degree. The hunting/fishing regulations are the size and complexity of IRS form 1040 instructions, they are changed every year, and are different for every county.

In 2003, we could have taken 10 legal deer on our property. (We stopped at 6.) That same winter, heavy snows caused a big deer die-off, and since then, there has been no antlerless deer season in Pocahontas County, and the rifle season has been shorter. Monroe and Greenbrier counties, however, continue to allow much heavier harvesting.

Now, the difference could have nothing to do with deer. The climate is different, and the soil may have more resilience.