Thursday, November 08, 2007

NORTH DAKOTA NEWS: Will Record Deer Licenses Translate to a Record Deer Harvest?

North Dakota Game and Fish Department officials are hoping a record number of deer licenses and hunters will help control the state's burgeoning deer population.

The state's deer gun season opens at noon Friday and continues through Nov. 25.

"I think we'll have a real good deer season," wildlife chief Randy Kreil said. "The deer are healthy, the weather looks good and the enthusiasm is certainly there, with a record number of people wanting to participate."

Kreil said about one in six North Dakotans are expected to hunt deer this year.

The Game and Fish Department issued a record 148,550 deer licenses, up 5,050 from 2006. An additional 4,350 whitetail and 700 mule deer licenses are available this year.

Kreil said 97 percent of the licenses had been issued by Thursday afternoon.

"Our deer population - especially for whitetail - is at an all-time high because of an unprecedented decade of mild winters," Kreil said. "We've jacked up the numbers of licenses to meet our management goals and get the population back in check."

Woody Woodward, an owner of Gun and Reel Sports Inc. in Jamestown, has been seeing more deer.

"There sure are a lot of deer around, and a lot of dead ones on the road," he said.

Woodward said the week before the opener is among the busiest times of the year at his business. The store opens an hour earlier on the opening day of deer season.

"Most deer hunters are good customers, but they wait to last minute - more so than bird hunters," Woodward said.

Deer hunters usually are lined up at the store before it opens, "but by noon, you can shoot a cannon through here and not hit anybody," Woodward said.

Last year hunters - including those with bows and muzzleloaders - killed more than 100,000 deer in North Dakota, besting the previous record of 99,600 set in 2005. The success rate was pegged at about 77 percent, Kreil said.

Wildlife officials are hoping hunters best last year's record harvest by about 10,000 deer, he said.

Roger Johnson, a Game and Fish big game biologist in Devils Lake, said hunters are happy with the number of deer in North Dakota this year, and they could see success rates of more than 80 percent in fields without row crops.

"When sunflowers and corn don't get harvested, it makes for better hiding," Johnson said.

Kreil said the number of deer licenses issued in 1976 was about 40,000, and has increased since.

Opening weekend is when the bulk of hunters go afield, Kreil said. Deer are North Dakota's most sought-after game, followed by pheasants, he said.

"I expect 70,000 to 80,000 people out chasing deer around this weekend," Kreil said. "I think there will be a lot fewer deer around on Monday."


KENTUCKY NEWS: EHD Outbreak Over--4000 Dead Deer

This year’s outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in deer appears to be over.

Killing frosts of the past week have eliminated most of the midges (gnats) which carry the disease. Biologists with the Department have not received new reports of deer deaths associated with the disease in several days, said Tina Brunjes, the department’s big game coordinator.

Officials have documented more than 4,000 deer deaths from the disease. “There’s no way to put an actual number on the deer that have died as a result of EHD,” Brunjes said. “However, hunters have taken more than 18,000 deer this season, which is around average at this point of the season.”

The disease, while fatal to deer, cannot be transferred to humans. Eating the meat of deer that appear to be healthy poses no risk to humans even if the deer is infected with hemorrhagic disease.

Hunters, however, should not eat animals that appeared emaciated or weak prior to harvest, due to the risk of secondary infections. Hemorrhagic disease can cause large abscesses to form in the body cavity, muscle tissue or under the skin. These abscesses render the meat inedible.

Modern gun season for deer, which opens statewide Nov. 10, will provide the best indication of the severity of the outbreak. Most deer are taken during the modern gun season. If the numbers are down considerably, that will provide biologists a better idea of the size of the state’s existing deer herd.

“We will continue to track harvest throughout the modern gun season in an effort to gauge the total impact of EHD,” said Wildlife Division Director Karen Alexy. “Right now, there’s no way to estimate the number of deer that have died from EHD.”

Officials in several surrounding states reported similar outbreaks this year.

Department officials will evaluate total deer numbers and recommend any changes to deer zones in 2008, if needed, at the March meeting of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission. Prior to the outbreak, Kentucky’s deer herd numbered nearly a million.

Brunjes noted that deer are prolific breeders. Even if the disease hit a local area hard this year, she said, the number of deer in the area will likely rebound within two years because of reproduction and animals moving in from other areas.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

OPINION: Sport Hunting Losing Efficacy

The state's annual November deer hunt, which is the primary method that the Department of Natural Resources uses to reduce the number of deer in the state, begins in another 10 days.

But in recent years, the DNR and many observers have realized that the hunt is not reducing deer populations adequately.

Tom Givnish, Henry Allan Gleason professor of Botany at UW-Madison and a member of the Chronic Wasting Disease Stakeholders Advisory Committee established by the DNR, says he is concerned that recreational hunting can no longer control the deer herd in Wisconsin.

A native of Pennsylvania who previously taught at Harvard before coming to UW 27 years ago, Givnish says that deer densities are much higher than they should be and as a consequence researchers have documented adverse effects on natural communities.

Deer are hindering the establishment of several tree species, such as yellow birch and hemlock, and driving to local extinction dozens of herbaceous species and shrubs.

"It is clear that our forests are much less diverse now than they were 50 years ago," Givnish said.

Because people have eliminated predators, such as wolves and bears, in southern Wisconsin, society relies on hunters to control deer densities.

"There is a social contract between hunters and the rest of society, because deer are owned by the state for all of us," Givnish said. "Hunters are allowed to harvest deer and in exchange the expectation is they will help manage deer so they don't have an adverse impact on the ecosystem. That hasn't worked out in recent decades in Wisconsin or in the eastern U.S."

Givnish points out that this wasn't always the case, as toward the end of the 19th Century people virtually drove deer to extinction in many areas. Conservationists realized that harvest restrictions were necessary.

Those restrictions, including shortening seasons and limiting the way deer could be hunted, worked and populations increased.

"But today we find ourselves hip-deep with deer and they are causing enormous ecological damage, interfering with tree reproduction, eliminating shrubs, there are high numbers of car/deer accidents affecting insurance rates, and they are a reservoir for Lyme disease," Givnish said.

He attributes this to the fact that the country has had a cultural change since the 1930s. The country is richer so the need for wild meat is not as great, and cultural changes mean that older hunters haven't convinced their youngsters to take up hunting.

"The DNR and the hunters have failed to control the deer herd," he said. "Deer have a very high rate of reproduction, sometimes dropping two fawns in their first year. When the deer population and density is high with a limited number of hunters, they escape control, which has happened."

The DNR and hunters are hunting with regulations and an "ethos" that were right in the 1930s and '40s, but are not the right thing now, he said.
"Back then it was right that you don't kill female deer and fawns, they were the future of the herd," he said. "But today the only way to control the deer herd is to shoot female and young deer. It is paradoxical that a system that involves forests, deer and humans, the intelligent part of that system is lagging in response."
In fairness, he notes that the regulations are changing, but there is resistance to things such as the Earn-a-Buck rule that requires hunters to shoot an antlerless deer before they can shoot a buck.

Rather than the traditional views on regulations and deer management, he believes there must be a place for minority and rational views.
Despite the DNR's best intentions, deer populations have not been reduced. But he said the DNR operates under the old rules and ethos, and hunters are currently not able to reduce damage to the environment.

"I would recommend reexamining some of the assumptions behind hunting regulations," he said. "I would greatly lengthen the hunting season, and in some extreme areas we should consider hunting with dogs, using bait, and hunting at night."
There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits that and the situation has changed from decades ago.

Givnish, who is not a hunter but says that he is not an animal rightist and has no problems with hunting and thinks it is wonderful because it gets people outdoors, said he does not know how to recruit more hunters but so far those efforts have not brought out a substantial increase in hunter numbers.

He thinks that many people believe that ethics are timeless, but he believes current
ethics were good under different circumstances. They are learned and they can change with circumstances.

The solution, Givnish says, is to either increase the number of hunters or to increase the efficiency of the hunt.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

MISSOURI/KANSAS NEWS: City Parks Open to Hunting This Year

Kansas City parks traditionally are havens for deer searching for rich foliage, but officials again this year will allow hunters into some parks to reduce the wildlife population.

The parks that will be open for special archery deer hunting are Tiffany Springs Park, Riverfront Park, Hodge Park and Jerry Smith Park.

The hunting will be in wooded areas away from trails and picnic areas frequently used by the public, said Debra Burns, a wildlife management supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation. Department officials are coordinating the hunts with the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department.

Officials are trying to reduce deer herds at urban parks to make highways safer from deer-vehicle collisions and to protect park habitat from damage caused by too many deer. Similar bow hunts for deer have been conducted for several years at other state, city and county parks in the area.

“In areas where we’ve had them for 12 years, we do see a decrease in the deer herd,” Burns said.

In hunts last year at Tiffany Springs and Riverfront parks, there were no problems as archers killed more than 40 deer.

Registration for this fall’s hunt is closed and the slots are full, Burns said. There will be 105 hunters. All will use tree stands and they will be shooting toward the ground at close range for safety.

Park officials say they hope the hunts also will discourage illegal firearms hunting in remote areas.


•Riverfront Park, now through Nov. 25.

•Hodge Park, Saturday through Nov. 25.

•Jerry Smith Park, Saturday through Dec. 9.

•Tiffany Springs Park, Nov. 24 through Dec. 9.