From the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
-- Alabama’s dog deer hunters gained a shaky reprieve from a county-by-county ban on the practice when the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board voted last weekend to approve a permit system in those problem areas where dog deer hunting is currently open before any additional areas can be closed.
According to Board Member Grant Lynch of Talladega, who helped broker the compromise through the Dog Deer Hunting- Landowner Rights Committee, the area where dog deer hunting remains open would encompass about two-thirds of the state.
“The focus of the committee was to try to find common ground that would give both sides of this important issue an understanding on what this board would do on a first-case basis going forward,” Lynch said.
The recommendation from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, which has studied the controversy extensively, suggested the advisory board not consider a statewide permit system but look at implementation in the areas where dog deer hunting remained open. Lynch also said WFF suggested looking at the Covington County permit system and consider it as a model to use on an area-by-area basis.
Lynch said the committee talked to the Alabama Dog Deer Hunting Association and its director, Don Knight, who said he would support a statewide permit system if it opened the areas previously closed to dog deer hunting. However, Lynch said landowners on the committee, WFF and board members on the committee had reservations about implementing a permit system in areas previously closed to dog deer hunting.
Input from Conservation Enforcement Officers in the Wiregrass region of the state indicated the permit system in Covington County gave the officers the tools necessary to get the two sides together and ensure that stalk hunting and dog deer hunting could “peacefully coexist,” according to Lynch.
“The enforcement officer is probably the first person with the most intimate knowledge of the geographic areas in question and the different parties – whether it be landowners or dog hunting clubs,” Lynch said. “He rides those roads during hunting season on a daily basis and touches those people and should be the first person to find common ground.
“The permit gives the enforcement officer a lot of leeway in how he interacts with the dog hunting clubs to support the landowner issues. He can go into a club and identify individual problem members and remove them from the membership. He can also identify individual clubs that are causing problems, as well. He can take away their privileges. He can look at the permitted areas and modify the permit to move them out of problem areas, but they still retain their rights to dog deer hunt. (The committee) felt like this was getting close to where we need to be.”
Lynch also noted that there are areas where the permit system will not work, for example, national forests, wildlife management areas and other county and/or municipal areas.
“Basically, what this proposal does is it clearly states to everybody that going forward the first position this board will take on this issue will put some kind of Covington County permit system in place in any county or part of a county that is currently open to dog deer hunting,” he said. “This gives the dog deer hunters a chance to make it work, to work with the enforcement officers to help get the clubs that are not doing it the right way out. It also gives the landowners the knowledge that it gives the enforcement officers the tools to handle the situation the best way they can.”
Lynch emphasizes that the vote does not open any areas previously closed to dog deer hunting. Neither does it change any permit systems that are already in place. As has been in practice for the past several years, the board cannot take action on any proposal unless it has been discussed at a previous board meeting.
Because the dog deer hunting issue in Choctaw, Pickens and Macon counties had been discussed at earlier meetings, the board voted to approve the permit system for all of Macon County, the part of Pickens County north of Highway 82, and the area of Choctaw County south of Highway 10, west of Highway 17 and north of Highway 18.
Board Member Dr. Warren Strickland from Huntsville commended the aforementioned committee for its work to achieve a compromise.
“Personally, I see this as a monumental step,” Strickland said. “This is excellent work by the committee. I’ve been on the board, I think for four years now, and most of our time has been spent trying to get the dog deer hunters and the landowners to work together. This may not be the panacea, but I think it’s a great first step.”
In other action by the board, Raymond Jones Jr., Board Member from Huntsville, made a motion to add two extra days to the youth deer weekend. The motion passed and the youth deer season for the 2009-2010 season will start Friday, Nov. 13, 2009, and run through Monday, Nov. 16, 2009. –By David Rainer