Board sets up restriction program
Published 11:09 am Wednesday, November 25, 2009
By By DAVID RAINER
Kenny Childree had witnessed first-hand the positive impact an antler restriction had on the deer herd at Barbour County Wildlife Management Area (WMA), and he was one of the leaders who pushed for similar regulations for the entire county.
The Alabama Conservation Advisory Board heeded that request and set up a five-year program that would try to measure the impact of the regulations.
As data collection enters its final year in the current 2009-10 season, Childree has already drawn his own conclusions from a layman’s perspective.
Childree said there have been very few complaints about the restrictions.
Bill Gray, supervising biologist for the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division’s District VI, witnessed a remarkable turnaround in the buck age-class structure at the Barbour WMA during the first 10 years of antler restrictions. Gray said there was a 500-percent reduction in the harvest of 1.5-year-old bucks, and a 375-percent increase in the number of 3.5-year-old and older bucks harvested. The number of man-days required to harvest a 3.5-year-old buck was reduced significantly. For comparison, Gray said that during the 1995-96 season (before restrictions), more 1.5-year-old bucks were harvested (118) than 3.5-plus-year-old bucks during the 10 years prior to the restrictions combined (109).
Gray has also been involved in checking the data gathered by Auburn University wildlife students for the sampling in the county-wide study commissioned by the Advisory Board. The students not only sampled deer taken in Barbour County but also included neighboring counties. Gray said there are several factors that make drawing conclusions much more difficult for the county, including the ability to collect data on the harvested deer in a central location and the number of deer checked.
The 2009-10 season will be the last year for collecting data in Barbour County under the Advisory Board directive. When the data is analyzed, a final report with be presented to the board.
Gray said the summary from Barbour County as a whole won’t be nearly as dramatic as the Barbour WMA for obvious reasons.
On the WMA it was pretty easy to measure what was going on,” he said. “There was a long history of heavy, heavy harvest on the 1.5-year-old age class prior to restrictions. When we took those deer out of play and passed that age class along, it didn’t take long to see an improvement in the age structure of the deer harvested on the area.”
Gray said that Barbour County as a whole was unlikely to have experienced nearly as heavy a harvest on the 1.5-year-old age class, compared to the WMA.