Tuesday, March 23, 2010

DELAWARE NEWS: State Restructuring Deer Management for Population Control

By introducing new population-control measures and recruiting non-traditional hunters, state officials hope to reduce agricultural and property damage caused by white-tailed deer.

The state's first long-term deer management plan, which officials say will be finalized in April, could allow the use of crossbows during archery season, reduce the antler width limit to 14 inches and require unlicensed hunters to obtain a free identification number.

"Hunting is the most cost-effective tool we have to help control the deer population," said Joe Rogerson, a large mammal biologist at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control's Division of Fish and Wildlife.

According to Rogerson, the number of hunters purchasing licenses has dropped from about 30,000 in 1975 to 18,000 last year.

"If the declining trend continues, we may not have enough hunters to help control the deer population," he said. "That's why we have to recruit new hunters..."

Many of the proposals in the plan, including those that will be discussed at a March 25 public hearing, are designed to encourage more involvement in hunting, he said.

Although many of those who would turn out for a crossbow season would be existing hunters, Rogerson said its use has led to larger harvests in neighboring states. He believes it will also encourage hunters who had retired from the sport to return.

"It could help older folks who aren't able to draw a bow out like they used to," he said.

The proposal to reduce the antler size restriction came after biological data indicated more fawns and younger deer were making it to adulthood, Rogerson said, adding that the identification number will help better track hunters who aren't required to obtain licenses.

The 10-year-plan also calls for the recruitment of young hunters and those in non-traditional groups, such as nature enthusiasts who also spend time in the forests, he said.

Charles Steele, owner of Steele's Gun Shop in Lewes, said most hunters are satisfied with the existing rules, but expanding hunting could be a good thing.

"Anything you can do to make the sport better and limit the amount of car crashes with deer would be great," he said.

Source: Delmarvanow

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