Should we buck the current tagging system?
LDWF looking to hear from hunters at upcoming meetings
"To tag or not to tag" - that's what will be coming soon to a public hearing near you. And that's the question deer and turkey hunters will be asked to comment on before the 2005-06 season regulations are officially adopted. At last week's LDWF Commission Meeting in Baton Rouge, Wildlife Division manager David Moreland outlined the basic mandatory tagging program they hope to implement after the public has its say. If approved this would represent the biggest change in big game regulations in decades.
Moreland said the results of hunter surveys indicate the overwhelming majority of deer hunters want bigger deer, meaning heavier body weights and larger racks. To achieve this result a reduction in the young buck harvest is necessary which means changing the current buck season limit from a possible 6 to a maximum of 3. The survey also showed that a majority of hunters favor a tagging system to effectively enforce limits which are presently under an "honor" system.
Basically the program would work like this. Tags will be issued to each hunter with the purchase of their deer/turkey licenses. Each hunter would receive 3 antlerless deer tags, 2 for bucks of choice and 1 only for 6 points or better. Turkey hunters would get 2 gobbler tags each. The tags could be used at anytime during the season eliminating the need for "doe days."
There are many questions to be answered and fine tuning done before the program is put in place. Validation of the tags is one of the big issues. Some states with tagging programs require hunters to bring tagged game to a check station within 24 hours of the kill. This would require LDWF and law enforcement stations to accept tags 24/7. Other states only require the tags and information to be sent in at the end of the season. What the additional cost of a tagging program to hunters or the department will be is another question. Moreland also mentioned the possibility of "bonus" tags. These are tags that could be purchased by hunters wanting to take additional bucks and antlerless deer over and above the 6 deer limit. The present limit allows for 6 of any combination of bucks and antlerless deer. The season limit for turkeys is 2.
So what are the pros and cons of tagging big game? The biggest benefit would be achieving the desired result - reducing the harvest of bucks allowing them to increase in size as they age. Another benefit would be the enormous amount of biological data it would produce. Imagine that biologists would have technical information on virtually every deer taken in the state. This data would allow for more educated and accurate management programs. Enforcement of limits might be easier since every deer in possession of a hunter would have to be tagged.
There is however a lot of opposition to the program expected. First off some hunters say they pay too much already. To hunt deer and turkey there are basic, big game, turkey stamps, archery, muzzleloader and WMA permits to buy and this could add to the cost. To some, validating the tags by either bringing the animal to a check station or sending in paperwork and tags at the end of the season is just more red tape. As far as making enforcement easier, tagging, like any system, has ways to circumvent the process such as swapping deer and buying tags and licenses for children and other relatives. The idea of "buying" extra tags doesn't' sit well with some hunters. They feel this would allow the wealthy to bag more deer than good conservation might allow.
What do I think about the program? Without a doubt I support tagging for turkeys. This is a species in trouble, overbagging is common and an honor system for 2 birds per season is a joke. Anything to better enforce and acquire more biological data about turkeys is worth the effort. As far as deer tagging I'm going to withhold my decision until I see the final version but I'm leaning towards an "It doesn't matter" opinion. Sure I can easily see the value of the massive amount of data it will produce. Like turkeys, more information can only help to better manage deer. It will tighten enforcement of the limits somewhat but I don't see a whitetail population threatened by overbagging anyway. The inconvenience of validating the tags doesn't really bother me and as a holder of a lifetime license a cost increase won't affect me and unless extravagantly high I wouldn't object to paying it anyway, but only if it were beneficial. But what mostly I'm thinking is why is this necessary and who will it benefit? With the exception of WMA public hunting, which has its own parameters anyway, almost all big game hunting takes place behind locked gates on private lands, leases and clubs. If they want to improve the quality of their herd, this hunting public already has the power authority to set its own management program by simply setting more restrictive regulations for antlerless deer and bucks than those currently set by the state (which is exactly what is going on right now). The LDWF's Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) will consult with participating clubs and landowners to help manage for more deer, bigger deer or trophy deer. If clubs abuse their deer herd, who are they hurting? Only themselves and that's enough incentive to do the right thing - without mandatory restrictions. This in mind, are statewide restrictions enforced by tagging a moot point?
So where does it all go from here? Here's the timeline. The Wildlife Division will present its program to the Commission at next month's meeting March 3 in Baton Rouge. The public is invited to comment at that meeting or any of its regular monthly meetings. Public input will be sought in a series of public hearings that will be held in towns all across the state. The final vote on the program in its finished format will come at the July Commission meeting. Deer and turkey hunters can also voice their opinions by writing the LWDF Wildlife Division, PO Box 28000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898.
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Same things happen in every state. If you want kill over your limit, its just gonna happen whether it means buying tags for your kids, wife or kinfolk or just plain not tagging in your game at all. Here in AR, some areas went to a one buck limit this year. How many hunters do u think stopped at one buck given the chance? I know of a guy that killed FOUR and only checked in the one. There is no way for game officials to catch even a small percentage of these wrong do-ers. I am in favor of tagging and checking all big game.
Needs to be done.
I agree with the tag system, it may not be perfect but the honor system we have now is almost impossible to keep anyone in check with the 6 deer limit, at least with tags there is a little better percentage of keeping things in check with the limits.
Here the state no longer prints hunting licenses. You go to an agent, pay your fee, and a piece of plain bond paper is run through a printer giving you 2 doe tags, 2 antlerless deer tags, a quality buck tag, and a hunters choice tag.
When you kill a deer, you call a toll free number or go on-line. You report you hunting license number and answer the questions to sex (buck, doe, antlerless or button buck)and you are given a "control number". Then you take your deer to a butcher who will record your control number (or you can butcher it yourself and can the control number).
Within some of your lifetimes, deer are going to become the grey squirrels of today: pests that infest country, towns and cities. When that happens, like squirrel hunting, people are going to ask you why you bother and you might even question yourself.
We live in the backwoods down here in louisiana and may not be up in the promised land like others up north and we do not have the deer population or the quality we would love to have and the system we have now is not achieving that so we do need to change. The honor system we have with no tags leaves it totally up to the hunter to kill his limit and I personally know of several who kill over the limit each year so a tag system may not be perfect but most of us down here think it would be a heck of a lot better than what we have now. If it is implimented and works who knows we may just get to see the 21st century in our lifetime.