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Thursday, June 13, 2013
Like a driver finally satisfied with his speeding ticket count, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is easing off the throttle.
In the case of game management, days during which hunters can take either a buck or a doe are the regulatory throttle that helps increase or decrease deer populations.
At its meeting in Richmond on Thursday, the agency’s board of directors voted, among other things, to approve the staff’s recommendations to tighten up on those so-called doe days in many counties.
A table showing the changes to either-sex hunting days even uses a term — “buck only” — that hasn’t seen much use in the past two decades as the state’s whitetail population has grown robust in just about every corner of the commonwealth.
For example, Russell, Smyth, Tazewell and Wythe all will offer buck-only hunting during rifle season on public land this coming fall.
Firearms season doe days were dropped in a number of counties east of the Blue Ridge, too.
Either-sex days on private land, where about 90 percent of the state’s deer hunters focus most of their attention, remain largely unchanged.
An exception to that trend is in the several counties in the Alleghany Highlands, where deer hunters during the late black powder season will get only a single doe day on private land, down from six days.
The rule will apply to Alleghany, Bath, and Highland counties.
Those counties, along with Augusta County, also will get an antler point restriction that has been in place in Rockingham and Shenandoah counties.
Under the rules, a hunter’s first buck can be any legal buck. But a second buck must have four points on at least one antler side.
The rule, which many hunters had asked for in Rockingham and Shenandoah counties and generally support, helps protect some younger bucks.
Deer hunters should also appreciate changes to the earn-a-buck program.
Under the new rules, the earn-a-buck requirement will be applied on a county-by-county basis.
For example, if a hunter kills a buck in Roanoke County, he must take an antlerless deer in Roanoke County before he can kill another buck in that county.
But his next deer could be a buck in a different earn-a-buck county, provided he had fulfilled that county’s earn-a-buck requirements.
Also on the earn-a-buck front, the rule will no longer be enforced in Franklin or Patrick counties, where deer populations have been sufficiently stabilized.
A change in Roanoke County should provide more incentive for hunters to keep the pressure on does.
The daily deer bag limit will be increased to two, a change that should appeal to hunters who may at times have been hesitant to shoot a doe because it meant their hunt was over.
DGIF officials also enacted additional restrictions on feeding deer, in large part to address law enforcement-related issues.
New rules make it illegal to feed deer or elk during any deer or elk season, and also require that any and all feed must be removed from the feed site before Sept. 1.
Those rules help close loopholes that allowed large amounts of feed or bait to be placed out before the existing Sept. 1 feeding ban, with that food lasting up to and into deer hunting seasons in October.
Also, it eliminates feeding during late seasons, such as urban archery season.
Finally, under the new rules, a feed site will be considered legally baited for 10 days after the food or attractant has been removed.
The DGIF’s board approved several new rules aimed to help with hunter recruitment and retention.
A youth bear hunting day will be held on the final Saturday in September, a day that coincides with the final day of the hound training season.
On other youth-only days, for deer and turkey, holders of apprentice licenses will be allowed to hunt.
The new rules will take effect in time for this fall’s hunting seasons.
Because the DGIF alternates between annual review of hunting and trapping, and fishing, boating and wildlife diversity regulations, the new set of rules will be in place for two years, though the agency has the option of proposing changes earlier if the need arises.
The agency’s Internet site will be updated soon to reflect the updated regulations. In the meantime, the full list of adopted proposals is available in the “Meetings” section, under the “meeting materials” header.
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