Dogs and deer hunting considered at recent advisory board meetings

Published 9:37 am Monday, March 24, 2008

By Staff
In one of the most civil Alabama Conservation Advisory Board meetings in recent memory, the dog deer hunting issue may have taken a different tack.
Board members appeared to be interested in pursuing a statewide permit system that would allow those interested in hunting deer with dogs to apply for a permit. Under the permit system, the hunting club would be subject to probation or revocation of the permit, depending on complaints and/or violations of the state's game laws.
Currently, five counties - Coosa, Chambers, Henry, Geneva and that part of Covington County north of U.S. Highway 84 - are under a permit system, which has worked well, according the Allan Andress, Enforcement Chief with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.
Coles, who had indicated at the February board meeting that he would introduce a motion on dog deer hunting in Coffee, Butler and Pike counties, decided instead to postpone that motion until the board meets May 17 at the Eufaula Community Center.
Board member George Harbin of Gadsden was ready to make a motion to ban dog deer hunting in Fayette County, where Conservation Enforcement Officers, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and Alabama Department of Agriculture conducted a sting operation that led to 28 arrests, but was stymied by a procedural requirement.
Under guidelines established several years ago by Conservation Commissioner Barnett Lawley, board members are not allowed to vote on a motion that was not discussed at the previous meeting. Although the Fayette County issue was brought up at one of the 2007 meetings, the motion did not meet the requirements of “previous” meeting.
That delay may give the board time to work on a possible solution.
“I think it's important that we work on a compromise,” said board member Warren Strickland of the dog deer hunting issue. “We don't want to take away anybody's traditional way of hunting. But we have to make it so the dog deer clubs are accountable.”
One item that passed unanimously during Saturday's meeting was a resolution offered by board member Johnny Johnson of Tuscaloosa supporting legislation to increase fines for game-law violations. House Bill 677, which has the backing of the Alabama Wildlife Federation and others, was introduced last week and is pending action by the Agriculture and Forestry Committee.
Don Knight of the Alabama Dog Hunters Association talked about the progress already made and asked for a little more time to purge the dog deer hunting ranks of the violators.
“This is a people problem, not a dog deer hunting problem,” Knight reiterated. “I'm glad they did the sting in Fayette County. We also support totally the proposed increase in fines. We just ask for time for these to work. We want to work together to get the outlaws out.”
In other action by the board, four items from the Marine Resources Division were passed - recommended approval of a regulation to support legislation passed last year to allow certain violations to be prosecuted in District Courts in Mobile and Baldwin Counties; recommended approval of a regulation to enhance the “Marine Turtle and Marine Mammals” regulation so mammalian dolphins (bottlenose dolphins and porpoises), manatees and marine turtles are effectively protected; recommended approval of the saltwater creel and bag limits to bring Alabama's regulations in line with federal regulations regarding the two-fish bag limit on red snapper and the size limit (12-inch total length minimum) for gray triggerfish; and recommended support of Alabama Department of Public Health efforts to address concerns about Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus that may have an impact on the harvest and sale of oysters in Alabama.
The board also voted to approve the 2008-2009 Seasons and Bag Limits presented by the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFFD) with one exception, which has to do with mourning dove season. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which regulates all migratory birds and waterfowl, has indicated it might allow Alabama to add 10 days of hunting to the North Zone. However, a decision has not been finalized and the motion passed by the board would allow the WFFD to adjust the season if the 10 days are added.
Under new business, which must be approved at the May meeting to go into effect, board member Raymond Jones Jr. of Huntsville discussed a proposed bag and size limit on catfish in the state. His proposal, which would allow anglers to take one catfish 34 inches and longer per day, was made to address concerns by Tennessee River catfish anglers, who said large catfish are being caught in Alabama waters and transported live to pay-to-fish ponds out of state.
Also, Capt. Bob Huffaker of the Alabama Marine Police Division discussed a proposed regulation that would restrict boaters who are within 100 feet of the shoreline in Alabama water to idle speed only.