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Conservation Advisory Board To Meet In Tuscaloosa
By Mike Bolton
Posted Tuesday March 27 2018, 1:50 PM
WFF has proposed returning a significant portion of the Zone C deer hunting zone to Zone A for the 2018-2019 season. If approved, Zone C would then look like this.
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Thousands of Alabama deer hunters in north Alabama could regain the doe hunting days they lost several years ago when doe numbers appeared to plummet across much of the upper third of Alabama.

Alabama had originally been divided into two zones—Zones A and B—for deer hunting purposes. Two years ago, the CAB approved a proposal from WFF to create a third zone—Zone C—in north Alabama. In Zone C, the days when unantlered deer could be harvested were severely reduced.

At its March 3 meeting in Montgomery, the CAB heard a proposal from WFF to greatly reduce the size of Zone C. Armed with two years of new data, biologists recommended that a large portion of Zone C be returned to Zone A because the doe deer herd in those areas were healthy.

Under the WFF proposal, Lauderdale, Limestone, Madison and Cherokee counties, as well as a portion of DeKalb County, would be removed from Zone C and returned to Zone A.

The advisory board will vote on that measure at its next meeting. That meeting has been set for May 19 in Tuscaloosa.

The CAB typically entertains proposals from WFF in its March meeting each year and then votes on those proposals in its second meeting in May. If approved, the changes would be in effect for the 2018-2019 season.

“Good information gives us the ability to adapt our management plan and do what’s best for the resource first and then the hunters, as well,” Chuck Sykes, the director of WFF, told the board in regards to its proposed changes to Zone C.

In recent years, the first CAB meeting of the year has revealed proposed, controversial  changes to the deer hunting seasons, including a three-buck limit, the division of the state into deer hunting zones, the extension of the deer season into February and mandatory Game Check. There were no fireworks this time around. Other than the proposal to reduce the size of Zone C, the proposed dates for the 2018-2019 deer hunting seasons remained virtually unchanged from last season, except for some minor changes because of calendar date conflicts.

Much of the March 3 meeting at the state capitol was dedicated to talk of the discovery of chronic wasting disease in neighboring Mississippi. What could be done to reduce the chances of CWD reaching Alabama was heavily discussed.

The board voted to form a CWD committee during the meeting. Brock Jones of District 7, Raymond Jones Jr. of District 5 and Patrick Cagle of District 2 agreed to serve on the committee, which will report its findings to the remainder of the board in May.

The board did take one immediate action to decrease the likelihood of CWD reaching the state. The regulation banning certain deer parts from states with CWD was amended to include banning those parts from all states.

“We know the highest risk of the disease coming here is by someone moving live deer or someone moving a hunter-killed deer into the state without properly taking care of it,” Sykes told the board.

The board was also asked for its input and guidance on what to do about the refusal of so many hunters to comply with the law that requires hunters to record their harvested deer in Game Check. Sykes said WFF stepped up the enforcement of the law last season by writing 200 tickets and 300 warnings, but even that didn’t help with compliance, the board was told.

A total of 82,484 deer were recorded with Game Check during the 2016-2017 season, the first season Game Check became mandatory, and WFF officials believe that was only a small portion of the deer harvested in the state. That number fell to 75,874 during the 2017-2018 season, even though it was a good deer season. Sykes said those numbers are confusing.

“We’ve done everything I know to do to try to educate people on the importance of Game Check,” Sykes told the board and the crowd in attendance. “If we don’t have good information, how can we make good decisions?

“Do I tell our enforcement guys to sit at main intersections going to processors to start checking trucks? Do we camp out at taxidermy shops or sit at hunting camp gates? I don’t know what else to do. I’m looking to the board for suggestions.

“We estimate that 30 to 40 percent of hunters are complying. What if we’re wrong and 70 percent are complying? That’s pretty scary.”
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