Monday, May 3, 2010

NYS Conservational Council Spring Big Game report

Also published at http://www.bloglines.com/blog/blackpowderbill

New York State Conservation Council
2010 Spring Meeting – Big Game Committee

The spring meeting of the Big Game Committee began with 18 people signed in.
Following introductions Gordon Batcheller from DEC provided an update of the Big Game status and plans for the department. A newly formatted report can be located on the intranet at (for deer) http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/63042.html
(for bear) http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/62722.html

As most people know, the deer harvest from 2009 was only slightly down (2%) from the previous season. The bear harvest on the other hand was well above the normal 5 year averages and is a reflection of expanding opportunities and healthy populations across the state. We are seeing the archery hunters take almost 50% of the harvest and as a result the strategies may have to be adjusted to prevent overharvest. With the expanding range and shrinking habitat, the number of conflicts is increasing. It could even create a multiple tag senerio in some areas. The real expansion concern is west and south of the Syracuse area where a study will be employed to define the management needs of this area.

DMAP was rumored to be in trouble as a program but its value is too great so the program will continue but in a different format. The change in focus will be the only visible changes with the report mechanism and the tags used, where the reporting responsibility will be with the permit holder. The tags will be a durable but less expensive type. This is designed to make the landowner more accountable to what is happening on his permit and land.

CWD – With 5 years now of no detected cases in the containment area, the regulation will be changing. The mandatory check will be removed but the statewide monitoring will continue. The DEC has the utmost confidence that they have prevented the spread from the original containment area and there is no current threat.

There is a proposal out for public comment concerning a new regulation which prevents the intentional feeding of bears. There is one exception which will allow for houndsmen that are training dogs. Please take the time to review the details and comment if you have a concern or can support this regulation change.

Money within the Conservation Fund is being closely controlled. Expenditures are scrutinized for non-personnel services which means staff will be less accessible for regional and local meetings of the various organizations. At this time they will not have a presence at the State Fair as it doesn’t generate that much money and most of the licenses sold would be purchased anyway at a different time. Fortunately there is quite a bit of federal money available from the various funds like Pittman-Roberston but these funds are very specific as to what they can be used for and the eligible activities. There are currently no less than 17 states being investigated for misappropriation of these funds. NY is not one of them and we would like to maintain that status. Unfortunately these funds cannot be used for educational purposes.

You will see that the future hunting guides will be less available for general handout. They will still be available for every licensee as well as on-line. This like everything else is an effort to reduce wasteful spending.

Last fall there were a series of public meetings put on by DEC to identify where they stood on certain issues, provide a report on the herd and get feedback from those attending to identify what the important issues were. This summer Cornell will be doing a survey based upon some of these issues identified as well as other items to get more details on the issues and choices which DEC will use to formulate a New Deer Management Plan for the Whitetail. There hasn’t been an actual published plan in years for the deer and it will provide a visionary goal 5 years out.

Hopefully the DEC will have a draft version ready for review at the Fall Convention. As part of this they will examine the harvest numbers and methods along with the consignment issue. In most cases there is unregulated harvest of does by the archery and muzzleloaders as they have an either tag in many instances. Obviously there are regional WMU differences and not all areas have the same issues. An option could see all does harvested by permit instead of unregulated taking. It is possible that a non archer can get a permit for an archery only area only to consign it over to someone else. This should be looked at to close the loophole. The one exception is that during the regular season an archery permit is not required to hunt with a bow.

Urban deer populations continue to be an issue and DEC is looking to allow more flexibility with the damage policies and utilize some more liberal management practices. Subdivision within current WMU’s was suggested or even the use of Crossbows for non traditional hunting applications.

Unfortunately the current law does not allow for the use of crossbows to take game. Regardless of where the crossbow may fit into the hunting seasons, the first step is to legalize it to take game. This could be a viable tool used under certain conditions but the law needs to be changed first to allow its use.

Gordon also stressed the issue of hunter recruitment should extend beyond the youth activity that we often target but include young adults and even middle age sportsmen (and women) should be included in our sights. Often sportsmen drop out of programs while they are building families and have higher priorities to deal with but when they get toward retirement age it may be a great opportunity to bring them back into the fold of outdoor activities.

One topic of discussion centered around creating laws which allow or restrict activities vs passing legislation which provides regulatory authority to a department like DEC. One such issue would be the discharge distance of a firearm or bow. Current legislation puts 500 ft as the minimum distance and while we have talked about lowing the legal discharge distance to 250 ft is that really appropriate in all situations? Given the problem of the Urban deer there may be instances where this should less than that to be effective. This would be an opportunity to change the legislation which would allow discharge distances to be regulated by the DEC. The Big Game committee will look at authoring a resolution which will address this issue.

Prior to beginning the march down resolution lane, Dan Owen provided a slide show presentation on the topic of Antler Restrictions. His presentation was aimed at the issue of “Manage or Mandate” and why mandatory AR’s should not be imposed. While many people voluntarily practice AR’s and DEC data shows that the percentage of yearling bucks being harvested is dropping some areas still believe that mandatory AR’s are needed and supported by their area. Some of the figures and quotes Dan used in his presentation were challenged but due to time constraints the discussion had to end so that resolutions could be handled. It was noted that this presentation was developed by Dan and did not represent a committee or regional position.



Big Game Committee Resolutions

While resolutions seek to change regulations or laws that govern our sport, many times the resolutions have basic flaws in how they are written. Groups need to do more research and provide more specific information. With all of the ECL’s available on the intranet, there should be little excuse for not having more details. One great resource is your regional DEC office. These folks would be more than willing to work groups or individuals on providing guidance and feedback on writing a more accurate resolution.

The following people/organizations who were designated as committee representatives voted on the resolutions before the committee;

Big Game Committee Archery Committee
Region 2 Martin McDonnell Region 5 Raymond McIntosh
Region 4 Wayne Gentile Region 7 John Huether
Region 5 Jami Whitney Region 8 Sam Selwood
Region 6 James Edic NY Field Archers Wayne Radley
Region 7 Jim Rodman
Region 8 Joe Wolak
Region 9 Rich Davenport
NYSMLA Eric Bratt
NY Houndsmen Dan Owen
NYS Deer & Elk Farmers Les Armstrong

1. Tompkins County – Wanton Waste – While the intent of this new law would be commendable, the issue of how to determine “every effort” was taken could be an issue with law enforcement officials. On DMAP it is already in the guidelines that every effort be taken, but there is no law stating that. Votes: 6 Support/7 oppose/1 abstain

2. Wyoming County – Rifle Use – There is already a bill in the legislature for this addition to the list of counties that have allowed rifle use in the traditional shotgun areas (S7210)
Votes: 14 Support/0 opposed

3. Chautaqua County – Rifle Use – While in general the committee and the Council support expanded opportunities for rifle use the specification of .243 caliber does not conform to the current state regulation. There was also discussion on the boarder line and the US rte 20 vs NYS Rte 20 designation. There are also 4 bills in the legislature regarding this change. We recommend that the submitters change the caliber designation to match current laws and the boundaries mention be clarified. While the Council can support an initiative like this, the local communities and authorities are really the ones that need to push this legislation. Based upon the format that this was written the votes were ; Votes – 3 support/10 opposed/ 1 abstain

4. Niagra County – Rifles w/ pistol cartridge - While most of those in the committee agreed with the premise that the “traditional” pistol cartridges have no more range than the modern shotgun range and that there are current pistols which use “traditional” rifle cartridges, there are no legal definitions of what caliber/cartridge defines rifle vs pistol. This would become a very huge enforcement issue and based upon that fact the votes were: 0 support/14 opposed

5. Erie County – Extended Late Muzzleloader & Archery season – In general we are always looking at expanding opportunities, there are several problems with this resolution. This resolution does not specify northern or southern zone. While some areas of the state could tolerate an extended season some areas can’t withstand taking more. Additional concerns over existing snowmobile agreements where they have agreed to not use the trails until the big game season ends could create issues between the groups. In addition states which were referenced as having extended seasons, have much shorter and limited seasons. Votes ; 2 support/11 opposed/1 abstain

6. Suffolk County – Youth Big Game weekend – While this deals with a specific issue and area, the Council as well as DEC has long supported additional opportunities for youth hunting. While the youth do have an opportunity to bow hunt on the weekends, it would be a great addition if they could have one weekend set aside to hunt with firearms This again delves into the issue of regulation vs law and if DEC was granted the regulatory authority it would be much easier. Votes ; 11 support/2 opposed/1 abstained.

7. Chemung County – Crossbow use – Probably the next most contentious issue after AR’s. Here again the law must be changed to first allow for the use of a crossbow for taking of game. Because this resolution asks specifically for its use during the special archery season, there are many opposed. Some also feel it is discriminatory to only allow use by seniors or disabled. There are no less than 8 current bill in the legislature looking to legalize the use of crossbows. The Councils current position is to support its use as a legal hunting implement. Votes: 3 support/ 10 opposed/1 abstain

8. Cattaraugus County – Bear Regulation change – While it appears that the history of this is targeted toward certain repeat offenders, the resources within DEC are not practical given the current economic position. The timeline which could be a safety issue of someone really in peril does not protect the individual for defending their person or property. DEC is aware of this issue and will work toward its resolve of the ethical vs legal practice that is taking place. Votes: 2 support/12 opposed

9. Delaware County – Oppose mandatory AR’s – Delaware’s resolution revolves around the issue of “home rule” where the organized sportsmen of an area should have the determination regarding issues such as AR’s. If other areas want to implement AR’s based upon their local support, then Delaware asks that for the same reasons the Council oppose any attempt to implement mandatory AR’s in 4O and 4P where the county organization is on record as opposing them. Votes; 7 support/3 oppose/ 4 abstain

10. QDMA – Progressive Strategies for YBP – 3A/4G/4P/4O/4R/4S/4W - One interesting point that QDMA does not include in their YBP (yearling buck protection) is the call for AR’s. They point out many of the benefits of protecting the yearlings like education and hunter support, there are many methods other than AR’s to achieve this goal. With current DEC reports of yearling harvest under 60% we are not far from that goal. Part of the opposition to this resolution is the fact that they include the Delaware County WMU’s 4O and 4P which are on record as opposing mandatory AR’s. Shortening of seasons, single buck tag and other alternatives could help achieve this goal. Votes; 5 support/6 oppose/3 abstain

11. Schoharie County – Alternative deer harvest w/local support– Specifically WMU 4G which is wholly contained in this county would like to see the Alternate harvest strategy implemented in this area because it has the support of the “Home rule” organizations in the county federation. They support programs which may include AR’s but did not specifically state it had to include AR’s. The issue that creeps into the conversation is that by DEC’s accounts, there are more hunters from outside some of these countis that use the area than those within. Because of this the “home rule” argument makes less sense for both those organizations for and against mandatory AR’s. Votes; 6 support/5 oppose/3 abstain

12. Nassua County - Alternative deer harvest w/local support– 3A/4G/4P/4O/4R/4S/4W – basically the same verbiage and areas but their proposal states it includes AR’s as part of the program. Interestingly enough, the submitting organization is not part of these listed areas. Same discussion points as #10 and #11. Votes; 5 support/7 oppose/2 abstain

13. Sullivan County - Alternative deer harvest w/local support– 3A – basically the same verbiage limited to WMU 3A and their proposal states it includes AR’s as part of the program. Votes; 5 support/7 opposed/ 2 abstain

14. Ulster County - Alternative deer harvest w/local support - basically the same verbiage limited to WMU 3A and their proposal states it includes AR’s as part of the program. They also want DEC to recognize any stake holder interest above 50% (simple majority) be the controlling percentage. Votes; 5 support/7 opposed/ 2 abstain

Greene County had two resolutions which did not make the official list due to unknown reasons but were read and briefly discussed. One is a general endorsement for AR’s with support of local organizations and economic interests while the other specifically targets WMU’s 3A/4S/4R. Greene county has a unique problem in that it is part of no less than 4 WMU’s. There was no vote taken on these resolutions.

Submitted by:
Eric Bratt NYAMLA.org Rep to the NYSCC
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