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Advisory Board Votes Down Permit System for Elmore
May 24, 2012
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Change was not the prevailing attitude last weekend during the final Conservation Advisory Board meeting of the year at Spanish Fort.
Several potential actions were expected to be voted on at the meeting at 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center, but only one motion was made. And it failed.
Grady Hartzog of Eufaula asked the board to approve a motion to place a portion of Elmore County on the permit system for deer hunting with dogs. Hartzog was unable to make the previous meeting and asked that action be delayed until he was in attendance.
The permit system requires any club that wishes to use dogs for deer hunting to acquire a permit before hunting. If verified complaints about the dog deer hunting continue, a review of the complaints could lead to the revocation of the permit.
When fellow board member Bill Hatley of Gulf Shores expressed reservations about any more restrictions on dog deer hunters, Hartzog relayed that he had received about 20 complaints during the 2011-2012 season. Hartzog also reminded the board that the permit system does not prohibit the use of dogs to hunt deer, but it does provide a tool to deal with problem clubs.
Despite the appeal, the board voted 5-4 against the proposal.
Hatley had planned to introduce a motion that would eliminate the fall turkey hunting seasons in the six counties that currently have it – Clarke, Clay, Covington, Monroe, Randolph and Talladega – and make the turkey season consistent throughout the majority of the state from March 15 through April 30. Several counties in north Alabama have shorter seasons because of reduced turkey populations.
Hatley, however, said apparently the word about his proposal didn’t gain wide exposure, and most hunters he had talked to were unaware of his proposed changes.
“I just don’t think the word got around,” Hatley said. “For that reason, I decided to table the motion until we could get more feedback from the turkey hunters. I hardly know anybody who hunts turkeys in the fall, but this will give those who do time to respond.”
Another potential motion that would have put Florida pompano under “game fish” status remained in “tabled” status until further research on the fishery can be done.
During public testimony, the board heard reports of a new oyster aquaculture project off the Alabama coast that produces premium oysters that are targeted for the upscale half-shell market. The oysters are held above the bottom during their growth from juveniles to a marketable size.
Steve Crocker, who said he has the only shellfish aquaculture operation on the Gulf Coast, said the operation shipped 30,000 oysters last year and will ship about 45,000 this year from about an acre of bottom in Mississippi Sound.
“When it’s fully built out, we’ll produce about a quarter-million oysters a year,” Crocker said. “My main point is that this is a commercially viable industry, and that this is something the local oystermen who want to work on the water could do and make a decent living.”
In the freshwater commercial fishing category, James Hanes of Guntersville asked the board to amend current regulations that prohibit him from running his gill nets at night. He also asked the board to reconsider the current catfish regulation that limits the possession of catfish 34 inches and longer to one per day.
“I don’t usually catch catfish that size because of the mesh size I use in my nets,” Hanes said. “But if I do catch two big fish, I have to throw one back. That’s gas money for me.”
Although the issues of supplemental feeding/baiting and an extended season were expected to receive a great deal of time during the meeting, only one speaker addressed the issue during public testimony. Brad Wallace of Baldwin County asked the board to consider a change in deer season that would start the season two weeks later and end two weeks later, which would extend the season into February.
In other deer hunting news, Fred Harders, Acting Director of the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, said the Wildlife Section has increased its effort to collect additional data on hunting activities and the white-tailed deer.
“The first thing we did was modify the Internet harvest recording system,” Harders said. “We made that more user-friendly. We’re going to promote that. When it first came out, we recorded about 1,400 deer without any promotion. It declined last year to 250. We’re going to promote that and encourage people to record their deer so we can get that information. The other thing we did was we modified our hunter mail survey. We sent it to licensed hunters by mail. We modified it to include county harvest information. We also started an e-mail survey, something that’s new this year. We sent questions that paralleled the mail survey.”
Alabama hunters are required to record on their licenses each antlered buck and turkey killed before the animal is transported. Harders said some hunters are still not in compliance with the regulation.
“Our enforcement section writes between 500 and 600 tickets each year for violations of the harvest record,” he said. “So we’re going to have a campaign to promote the use of that. We have a slogan to go along with the campaign, ‘Note It Before You Tote It.’ We’ll have decals and information in the digest.”
Harders said WFF is encouraging people to participate in the Deer Management Assistance Program, which started in the 1980s to give landowners a method to harvest does to balance their deer herds.
“It was very popular back then,” he said. “We issued doe tags so landowners and club members could harvest does at any time during the season. In its heyday, there were 2,100 participants. Last year we had 100. We’re removing any fees associated with that, and we’re encouraging landowners to participate.
“We’ve also contracted research with Auburn University to look at fawn recruitment, an extension of what Dr. Steve Ditchkoff did at Fort Rucker. This will be a multi-year study. Also, our biologists are finishing their sampling this year for our fetal study to fill in blanks to the information we have now.”
Harders also said the WFF biologists have been reviewing deer management plans from other states and are working to update Alabama’s deer management plan. Harders said he hoped to have the plan proposal ready for the next board meeting, which will be Feb. 2, 2013, in Montgomery.
Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr. relayed bad news regarding the State Parks budget for 2013. The Alabama Legislature cut $2 million from the allotment to State Parks.
“That makes a little over $7 million the Legislature has taken from the State Parks system in the last two years to help balance the budget,” Guy said. “The parks are very important to our families. A lot of them are related to our hunting and fishing industries. We’ve got difficult times ahead. You need to let your concerns be known to your legislators and what it will mean to you. It’s important.
“The legislators have a difficult time trying to get this budget right. At the same time, they need to know about your concerns with these issues. Parks is going to have trouble moving forward with this funding. The State Parks system provides tens of millions of dollars in economic benefit to the state of Alabama. And it provides recreational opportunities for all walks of Alabama citizens.”
PHOTO: (By David Rainer) Members of the Alma Bryant High School Archery Team were recognized at the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board meeting recently at 5 Rivers Delta Center. Representatives from the school are, from left, Coach Roy Richardson; Tyler Williams, state champion with a score of 294 out of 300; Wendi Thomas, state and national champ with a high score of 296; and Joshua Clark, former state and national champ with a high score of 296.