Dog deer hunters get shaky reprieve

Published 6:13 pm Monday, May 25, 2009

Alabama’s dog deer hunters gained a shaky reprieve from a county-by-county ban on the practice when the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board voted last weekend to approve a permit system in those problem areas where dog deer hunting is currently open before any additional areas can be closed.

According to Board Member Grant Lynch of Talladega, who helped broker the compromise through the Dog Deer Hunting- Landowner Rights Committee, the area where dog deer hunting remains open would encompass about two-thirds of the state.

“The focus of the committee was to try to find common ground that would give both sides of this important issue an understanding on what this board would do on a first-case basis going forward,” Lynch said.

The recommendation from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, which has studied the controversy extensively, suggested the advisory board not consider a statewide permit system but look at implementation in the areas where dog deer hunting remained open. Lynch also said WFF suggested looking at the Covington County permit system and consider it as a model to use on an area-by-area basis.

Lynch said the committee talked to the Alabama Dog Deer Hunting Association and its director, Don Knight, who said he would support a statewide permit system if it opened the areas previously closed to dog deer hunting. However, Lynch said landowners on the committee, WFF and board members on the committee had reservations about implementing a permit system in areas previously closed to dog deer hunting.

Input from Conservation Enforcement Officers in the Wiregrass region of the state indicated the permit system in Covington County gave the officers the tools necessary to get the two sides together and ensure that stalk hunting and dog deer hunting could “peacefully coexist,” according to Lynch.

“The enforcement officer is probably the first person with the most intimate knowledge of the geographic areas in question and the different parties – whether it be landowners or dog hunting clubs,” Lynch said. “He rides those roads during hunting season on a daily basis and touches those people and should be the first person to find common ground.

“The permit gives the enforcement officer a lot of leeway in how he interacts with the dog hunting clubs to support the landowner issues. He can go into a club and identify individual problem members and remove them from the membership. He can also identify individual clubs that are causing problems, as well. He can take away their privileges. He can look at the permitted areas and modify the permit to move them out of problem areas, but they still retain their rights to dog deer hunt. (The committee) felt like this was getting close to where we need to be.”

Lynch also noted that there are areas where the permit system will not work, for example, national forests, wildlife management areas and other county and/or municipal areas.

“Basically, what this proposal does is it clearly states to everybody that going forward the first position this board will take on this issue will put some kind of Covington County permit system in place in any county or part of a county that is currently open to dog deer hunting,” he said. “This gives the dog deer hunters a chance to make it work, to work with the enforcement officers to help get the clubs that are not doing it the right way out. It also gives the landowners the knowledge that it gives the enforcement officers the tools to handle the situation the best way they can.”