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ATTN DE Deer Hunters II

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ATTN DE Deer Hunters II

Old 03-25-2004, 06:56 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Wilmington Delaware USA
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Default ATTN DE Deer Hunters II

Mr. Ken Reynolds of DE Fish and Wildlife was kind enough to answer my letter to Mr. Moore concerning the upcoming proposal to introduce 8 shotgun hunting days wrapped around what are now archery only October weekends. I would like to again thank Ken for taking the time out of his busy schedule to address my concerns. Ken was also kind enough to put me on a list so I will be informed of the upcoming workshops that will address proposed changes. I will post dates, times and locations when I receive them.

Below is 1st, my letter to Mr. Moore to refresh everyone memory. 2nd is the response sent by Ken. The response is a long as my letter, so its NOT a short read. Im digesting the info and still have some concerns, but that'll wait for another time. For those of you concerned, esp Archers, please post your thoughts. I will definately be attending these workshops and I'd like to know others opinions (pro and con) just in case not many other hunters attend. Thanks ahead for any responses. Keep in mind, per Ken, the proposal will include all public as well as private lands. Scott

Original Letter:

This morning I was greatly disturbed when I read of the proposed 2004 -
2005 Deer Season changes in the articles 'State Responds to Deer Problems' by Molly Murray and 'Killing trophy bucks does little good' by J.L. Miller in the February 25th edition of The News Journal.

I simply cannot believe that the division would consider placing short
three day shotgun seasons around the October weekends to increase the deer harvest based on so little facts. The division admits in the articles that there is little data on the size of the herd but estimates 'there are 30,000 - 50,000 deer'. That's a pretty large margin of error. I'm sure if
the division is not sure the size of the total herd, it cant be sure of
herd sizes within specific hunting zones. Aggressive herd thinning that
would be acceptable in one zone, could wipe the deer out in another.

The reasons that the articles state for thinning the herd are also vague.
They are as follows:

"Dozen of complaints from farmers each year about crop losses" "Its a hugh loss" : How much of a loss is it? What's the $$ Cost? How much has it increased year over year the past 5 years? These questions have not been answered.

"Deer Ticks carry Lyme disease" : This is true, but I've been bow hunting
in September the last 4 years and have never pulled a Tick off me. How
much has the disease increased the last 5 years?

"Deer can pose road hazards" : From 2000 - 2003 there have been 3 people killed in accidents involving deer. That's an average of less than 1 a year. All deaths are tragic, but if I looked, I bet I could find more
deaths by auto caused by people swerving to miss other wildlife (Dogs,
Cats, Foxes, Opossums, etc) Unless we kill all the deer, people are still
going to hit one every once in a while.

"Heavy Deer foraging is threatening native plants" : The examples given in the article where this is taking place are State Parks where normal hunting seasons do not apply and are therefore misleading. You stated that there are "200 deer per square mile in White Clay State Park" I doubt these kind of numbers exsist in most hunting areas.

What it sounds like to me is there are a few groups, that have alot of
political clout or alot of money who are putting pressure on the division
to decrease the herd numbers. They being:

1) Farmers: Who with no question are losing some crop money to the deer. But are these Farmers opening up their lands to hunters who would gladly take a few deer off their property? I wonder?

2) Suburbanites: Who are buying homes that have been recently built on
old deer habitat that are now upset their flowers and trees are being
grazed on. That's a consequence of habitat destruction. If all the deer
habitat wasn't destroyed, the deer wouldn't be in peoples back yards.
These people are probably the ones most worried about being bitten by deer Ticks. Something must be done to slow down sprawl. The answer isn't to kill more deer.

3) Insurance Companies: Who don't like paying claims on death or property damage caused by deer. These folks don't care about the welfare of the outdoors. They only care about their Balance Sheets. They should be the last people the division listens too when making deer season decisions.

Now there are also many issues that will affect hunters, like myself, if
these seasons are implemented. But they should be addressed at another
time. The articles stated that there would be public workshops open to
discuss all the issues. I hope the public will be informed in a timely
manner as to when and where these workshops will take place. I would like to attend these meetings to hear the 'facts' behind the proposed season changes.

The bottom line is there doesn't seem to be enough information on the size and health of the herd or the amount of real damaged being caused to take aggressive steps to change the seasons. There maybe some less drastic solutions to increase the harvest on a smaller scale. The articles stated there would be two more doe permits included with the 04-05 license. That's a good start. How about making Sunday Hunting legal ONLY during the current Shotgun and Muzzleloader Seasons to give the average working hunter both weekend days to hunt? Maybe some money could be found to pay Farmers who open their lands to public hunting during the deer seasons?

Until I hear some concrete facts that would justify introducing Shotgun
Seasons in October, I will not support them. It might not do much good,
but I will write my Congressmen, Senators and the Governor asking they use their influence to keep the Seasons Status Quo until more research is done. If the seasons are implemented without further study, I will protest by not hunting during them (bow or gun) and I will encourage everyone I can reach, whether they be in earshot, by telephone or across the state via the Internet to do the same.

This is the time to do research, not jump in head first. To do the latter
is negligent and disrespectful to the deer. You can not allow this to
happen.

Thanks for your time and attention.

Response:

Dear Scott:

I reviewed your e-mail again and there is a lot of ground to cover, so here goes.

Historical Background

Since 1954, the Delaware deer harvest has risen from 505 animals with three hunting days, to over 12,000 animals per year with 134 hunting days, the majority (73.9%) of which are archery only days (99 archery only days vs. 35 combination gun/archery days). The current proposal would change this to 90 archery only days and 44 combination days.

Prior to the mid- 1980’s, very few deer complaints were received and traffic accidents were relatively low. And although we were tracking the doe/buck ratio in the harvest, we did not see the train wreck looming. If you look at the annual doe/buck ratio in the annual harvests, you find that on average, does made up only 30-35% of the harvest even though we had totally hunter’s choice seasons. Small grain production (corn, beans, wheat) was increasing through the 1960’s and 1970’s, providing a tremendous food supply for the deer. This coupled with a light doe harvest apparently set the stage for a substantial increase in the deer population.

I started with the Division in 1984. That year the harvest was 2,517 animals. By 1990, that had increased to 5,066; up 113% in just 7 years. Despite the tremendous harvest increase, road kills and farmer complaints were increasing rapidly. It was at that time that the Division started implementing programs to harvest more does. From 1990 through 2001, the deer harvest continued to increase with a 2001 record high of 12,133; up 382% from 1984. By 2001 the percent does in the harvest had climbed to 52% statewide and we felt we were approaching a doe harvest that would at least stabilize the population.

From about 1996 (when we started our Deer Damage Assistance Program DDAP) until 2003, things seemed on track. But in the summer of 2003, we were contacted by the Delaware Department of Agriculture and told that they were being bombarded with calls from farmers with complaints about deer damage. In addition, we have gotten more calls from airports and suburban homeowners. With recent human fatalities, deer vehicle collisions have become a controversial issue. As the agency charged with deer management, we felt it would be irresponsible to ignore this situation. Furthermore, we felt that if we did not address the issue, it was likely someone else would address it for us. It was decided to form a Deer Technical Advisory Committee (DTAC) made up of members of the farming community, hunting community, non-government conservation groups, members of the General Assembly and the Division of Fish and Wildlife. In December, members of this committee and other invited guests met for 3 days with 7 of the most renowned deer biologists in the country. The proposals we are hoping to move forward with are ideas that came out of a consensus of opinion of the DTAC committee and from ideas generated by the 7 experts.


Proposal

To be honest, I have never seen the actual articles you refer to but I will outline the proposal here and the rationale for it.

The proposal is to add 1 day to the October muzzleloader season (any deer) and add 8 days of gun hunting in October for antlerless deer only (bow hunters could continue to take any deer, bucks included, on these days). The added gun days would be Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. In addition, hunters would get 2 additional doe tags with their hunting license in addition to the current 2 antlerless tags.

The rationale behind this proposal is pretty simple – i.e. the concensus is that we still need to take more female deer (at least in the short term) and we need to take them as early as possible in the season. The panel of experts felt that our percent females in the harvest should be around 65%. The October muzzleloader season results in a high percentage of does in the harvest; much higher than the November shotgun season. It is also our second highest total kill season. Adding days in October should help increase the doe harvest. By harvesting more females before the rut, more of the remaining females would be bred on their first estrus cycle thereby better focusing the rut and the fawning period the following spring. Delaware is also interested in moving toward a Quality Deer Management Program which would encourage the harvest of does, and discourage the take of fawn bucks and yearling bucks. The earlier the season, the greater the size difference between button bucks and adult does. Right now, we have a pretty high harvest of button bucks. We would like to work toward reducing that as much as possible. The new October hunting structure as proposed will not totally reach that goal the first year but it will set the stage for future improvements as hunters become better educated regarding Quality Deer Management. The committee came up with about as many arrangements of days as there were committee members (15). We settled on a rotation around weekends because that is when most people hunt and we could perhaps get some harvest benefit from multiple opening day effects.

Keep in mind that these changes are in the proposal stage. Based on public input, and testimony presented at a public hearing, the Secretary of DNREC will make a judgment to implement the regulation as written, modify it or reject it completely.

Population Levels

You note that the Division admits that there is little data on the size of the herd. We don’t have all the data we would like, but we are not flying totally blind. In the late 1990’s, Dr. Chris Rosenberry ( now the PA Game Commission’s wildlife biometrician) used our deer harvest data to calculate an estimate for the deer herd size at that time. His estimate was 30,000 animals. We have harvested an average of 10,000 animals each year since 1997 so this estimate would seem reasonable. Also, we have done spotlight counts on selected areas around the state and generally find fairly high densities. We certainly would like to have even more precise numbers. We have just contracted with Dr. Jacob Bowman of the University of Delaware to evaluate our deer management program, give us some guidance on how to better collect data and provide a management plan that we can use in the future.



Farmer Complaints and Road Kills

As I mentioned, farmer complaints seemed to increase greatly from the late 1980’s to the mid-1990’s. We implemented regulations to increase our doe kill and started our Deer Damage Assistance Program which now has 256 farms enrolled. Farms are visited to confirm damage and although we do not have a dollar amount for damage it is clear that losses are occurring. Farms that are in the program appear to like it but 256 farms is only about 10% of all farms in the state. The University of Maryland did an economic loss survey in 1996. Based on 102 farms on the Upper Eastern Shore, crop loss estimates were put at $6.5 million dollars for that region. Losses on the lower Eastern Shore were estimated at a little over $9 million dollars. Your point on road hazards regarding deer is well taken an I agree with you 100%. Since 1984, we have recorded 4,278 road killed deer. Only 8 of these encounters have resulted in severe personal injury (0.2%) and as you say, only 3 people killed (0.07%). Since we know that not all deer/vehicle collisions are reported, these percentages are actually even lower. A death is tragic, but as you indicate, these occurrences must be kept in perspective.

Deer Browsing Issues

Most of the deer browsing problems that I am aware of occur in northern New Castle County but Rob Line with the Division of State Parks and Recreation tells me that native vegetation is being destroyed by deer in many areas of the state. Studies in Pennsylvania have shown that significant impact to plants and forest resources occurs when deer populations exceed 20 animals per square mile. We have many areas in the state where it seems that this level has been reached or exceeded. In places like northern New Castle County where the agriculture food resources are limited, deer turn to more traditional food sources in the woods. Deer eat everything as high as they can reach. The forest understory becomes very open and devoid of plants that are valuable for other wildlife species. You can see this in forest stands in northern Delaware.




Hunter Access to Farms

To the best of my knowledge, all of the farmers that are complaining strongly about deer crop damage do allow deer hunting. However, as you probably know, the hunters are somehow known to the landowners (family, friends, etc) or they are hunters that are paying lease fees to hunt. Because of perceived liability issues, previous bad experiences with hunters, or just a general cautiousness, it is almost impossible to find a landowner that will let a stranger on their land to hunt. Our Division will continue to work to find a solution to this problem, but it is not an easy fix. We have no authority to demand that landowners allow people to hunt, yet we still must work with the farmers to resolve their crop damage issues.

Suburbs

As Delaware continues to become developed, problems with deer in the suburbs will continue to grow. As you suggest, in a way, the suburban homeowners have made their own problems. Were the deer there first? Yes. Are deer eating shrubbery because that’s the food now available? For the most part, yes again. There are some attempts to slow down sprawl in Delaware but it is a huge problem with all sorts of social and economic implications – let’s face it, development is big business and it is no likely to go away. As a biologist that hunts and enjoys seeing wildlife, there is nothing that hurts more than to see a beautiful farm become a sea of houses. But that aside, as an agency it is our responsibility to respond to citizen’s concerns/complaints regarding wildlife. And as a greater and greater percentage of citizens become suburbanites, more and more complaints are going to come in to us. We will not have the luxury of ignoring these complaints and at times the only solution open to us will be to reduce the animal population whether it is deer, resident geese, beaver etc. My hope is that land protection efforts will be adequate to maintain wildlife populations at a level where in the future, people can still hunt and pursue other wildlife related recreational activities.




Insurance Companies

My only experience with insurance companies as they relate to deer collisions is my personal experience with 3 collisions (2 with the same car). My daughter hit one and my wife hit 2. As a deer biologist, I have never been contacted by an insurance company complaining about deer and trying to get us to kill more deer. In fact, I have contacted insurance companies trying to get deer claims information from them and they don’t seem to keep that information. My impression is that they just pass the costs on to their consumers with increased rates, etc.



Sunday Hunting

Making Sunday hunting legal is not something our agency can do. This would have to be done through a bill introduced by a state legislator as passed as a statute. Our agency only has the authority to pass regulations. At this point in time, there seems to be a great reluctance to introduce and pass such a bill that would allow Sunday hunting.

Summary

This proposal, (more October gun days and 2 free doe tags with license) if passed, should be considered an experiment. We think it will have some benefits but we can’t be sure until we analyze the harvest information. Certainly, landowners and hunting clubs are not obligated to take advantage of those days if they feel it is not right for their property. A hunting club could still keep those days as archery only. The proposed changes will however, give landowners another tool to manage deer on their property. As a person who has been involved with deer for the last 20 years, I feel pretty strongly that these changes will not decimate the state’s deer herd. Deer are extremely productive and can nearly double their population in a year unless they are controlled by hunting. If there is a need to build the population at any time, we would have the option of reducing some hunting days and the availability of antlerless tags. That should allow the herd to rebound quickly. Once Dr. Bowman has completed his analysis of our deer program, we will be in a position to implement some research projects to get the additional information needed to better management this valuable resource.

Thank you for your interest in Delaware deer management and please feel free to contact me at any time.

Sincerely,

Ken
_____________________________
Ken Reynolds, Program Manager II
Wildlife Section
Duckmastor2 is offline  
Old 03-27-2004, 02:22 PM
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Default RE: ATTN DE Deer Hunters II

Duckmastor2,
I'm really impressed! Good letter to F&W and great follow up from Reynolds. I printed copies to give to fellow hunters on our lease land in Thompsonville.

About a month ago F&W went up in a chopper to do a night spot light count over Cape Henlopen state park (Lewis). Never heard the results, but I'm sure it was well over 20 per sq mile. 200 per sq mile in New Castle is crazy! Couple years ago there was a F&W public meeting to announce the then new deer regs and encourage QDM practices. Alot of guys present from New Castle county complaining there was an enormous herd up there,but few areas allowed hunting due to residential restrictions etc... Apparrently alot of trophies up there will die of old age!

6 guys hunt our farm in Thompsonville. Including myself, 2 of us will take a doe with no hesitation. I've taken 19 deer off that farm in 5 years. 3 bucks, 2 button bucks (mistake),14 does. I find it amazing how many hunters will not take a doe for any number of lame duck reasons,but complain about lack of quality bucks in a given area.

I subscribe to Quality Whitetails(magazine), published by QDM Association. The Executive Director,Brian Murphy(a wildlife biologist)was the key speaker at the DE F&W meeting 2 years ago. After listening to him re QDM practices I decided on the spot to subscibe to their Mag.

The March 2004 issue has a great article about yearling buck dispersal rates written by Brian. Bottom line - hunters need to take more does to keep the dispersal rate down in a given area. I would recommend this magazine to anybody wishing to get solid info based on actual field research and deer hunting in general. A no BS Magazine for serious deer hunters.

Should be a very interesting 04/05 hunting season.

BTW let us know if you hear of any upcoming F&W meetings.
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Old 03-27-2004, 06:35 PM
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Default RE: ATTN DE Deer Hunters II

Thanks AJ. I'm just trying to stay involved in the process.

I agree that we as DE Hunters need to take more does. When I hunt deer, I hunt DEER, not BUCKS. I wont shoot fawns, or later season small deer (dog size), but horns dont concern me. Its always nice to bag a trophy, but as hunters, we are part of the conservation process. We need to do our part and if taking does is the answer, we must do so.

I am by no means attacking hunters who chose only to shoot bucks. Thats their choice. But it might, in the long run, hurt our options as hunters.

I was born, raised and began my hunting in NJ. What has happened the past few years in my home state sits in my mind as I hear what it is being proposed in DE. It began with unlimited doe harvests in certain 'overpopulated' zones. Then came "Earn a Buck" zones which required hunters to take a doe before they could harvest a buck. All this was implimented to reduce the doe population, bring the population under control and the QDM factor would introduce more big bucks to the herd. Alot of hunters, including myself, thought it was a great idea at 1st. Then, after a few years, hunters began to see a drop off in deer sightings and little increase in Big Buck sightings this QDM idea had in mind. Reading the NJ posts on this sight back up this statement.

In DE, we need to proceed with caution, not full bore hell bent on culling a herd that might not need to be culled. If during my hunting trips or spring scouting, I saw emaciated deer, starving, tearing apart locals tree lines and lawns, I'd be the 1st one in line to blast away in October. But, I just havent seen it. If someone, anyone, can give a reasonable case to agressively trim the herd, I'll be right in line for the permit. Deer meat is deer meat to me. Buck or Doe.

I'll post the workshop dates when I have them. DE Hunters, please get involved!
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Old 03-29-2004, 10:28 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2003
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Default RE: ATTN DE Deer Hunters II

Duck,
thanks for posting this info! It was alot to read so I too need time to digest. Again, I am a northern New Castle County hunter who spends alot of my hunting time in White Clay Creek State park and although Ken's responce didn't cover to much about State parks I hope they will loosen some of their current additional restrictions.
Ken was correct about mature deer dying of old age in NCC. It's just to tough to get permission around here.
I'll keep checking in for updates, thanks again.
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Old 03-29-2004, 01:09 PM
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Default RE: ATTN DE Deer Hunters II

Nice job Scott.

From the way I read his proposal, every four days through October, guns will be blaring in Delaware. That makes for a really bad bow season. And I think you are right, the biggest problem is access. I tried for a few years to get permission to hunt private land, but it seemed everything was already being hunted by someone else, and the landowner wanted to limit the number of hunters on his ground. That's nice for the guys who hunt there, but if they don't take enough does, it's bad for everyone else.

I've had so many bad experiences with public land I will not even consider it, so I just wrote Delaware off as "unhuntable" for the time being. Now, with guns popping every weekend, which is when most bowhunters get out anyway, I KNOW it's not worth it to hunt Delaware. But I guess it's great for the gun hunters.
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