VIRGINIA’S BOARD of Wildlife Resources approved last week a host of proposed hunting regulations, including bag limits for white-tailed deer, revised types of muzzleloading guns allowed, and procedures for issuing the commonwealth’s first elk hunting licenses.
The board also set the stage for a special meeting later this month where four recommendations related to a proposed resolution about hunting deer with dogs are on the agenda.
The recommendations include:
Supporting a change to Virginia’s “Right-to-Retrieve” law that would require hunters using dogs to first attempt to contact a landowner at the phone number listed on posted signs before entering the property;
Supporting a legislative change that would require dogs engaged in deer hunting to have a collar with the name and contact information of the owner;
Directing staff to examine the permits needed for foxhound field trials and make recommendations to help preserve the event’s integrity and to prevent the intentional running of deer;
And directing staff to develop a Hunter Education Program module that addresses ethics and good practices in hunting with dogs.
We will have more information and analysis next week about this upcoming meeting, which reflects the first time the DWR Board has publicly tried to develop an official position document that could be used by state legislators when deliberating bills related to hunting deer with dogs.
Most of the regulatory proposals were noncontroversial and passed with limited comment. As expected, an earlier recommendation to allow all-day hunting during the spring gobbler season was modified, slightly adjusting the current rules to add an additional week of all-day hunting at the end of the typical 36-day season. Hunters will now be limited to one-hour before sunrise until noon for the first 16 days of the season and until sunset for the last 20 days.
Concerns related to negative impacts on turkey hens nesting or preparing to nest were behind the modified recommendation. The compromise addresses potential biological impacts while adding recreational opportunity and possibly aiding in hunter recruitment.
One approved recommendation that received considerable discussion pertained to the amount of time that had to lapse between flying a drone over an area and then hunting in that area.
Using drones to hunt, herd or drive an animal is prohibited; how long before an area could be hunted was the issue. The approved recommendation makes it illegal for a person to hunt or assist a hunter on the same calendar day that the drone was employed.
Some board members wondered about the “fair chase” impacts of allowing someone to surveil an area in late afternoon or early evening and then hunt it in the morning, offering that a 24-hour period might be more acceptable. Cale Godfrey, assistant chief of the wildlife division, said staff decided an overnight resting of an area from drone activity was sufficient.
Board member Frank Adams pointed out that new game cameras, many with satellite transmission capabilities, can relay in real-time when an animal is in a specific area. Evolving technology is making such decisions challenging, Godfrey noted.
One of the longest sessions of the meeting related to a recommendation coming out of the agency’s Wildlife and Boat Committee that would ban awarding prizes, monetary or otherwise, for coyote or fur-bearing predator hunting contests.
Several states, two in New England and five on the West Coast and the Rocky Mountains, have some prohibitions.
Supporters of the practice pointed to the apparent burgeoning number of coyotes, considered invasive, nuisance animals, in Virginia and they called for intensive predator control to protect livestock and domestic animals. Opponents routinely dub the events “killing contests.”
One speaker from North Carolina who manages a contest stated (and I would have to agree) that he has never heard of such competitions referred to as “killing contests,” except by antihunting organizations. The speaker called for an even broader regional approach across state boundaries when it comes to coyote control. A motion to forward the recommendation for public comment passed on a 10-1 vote.
Public comment will be accepted from June 15-30 according to DWR Director Ryan Brown. Use dwr.virginia.gov/about/public-comment-opportunities to comment online.
The board also approved the DWR operating and capital expense budget for the upcoming year. Last year’s budget was $67.8 million. This year’s operating budget request was $71.1 million while the capital budget request totaled $4.85 million.
Appointments and Retirements
The board elected Brian Vincent to be its chairman next fiscal year with Gerald “G.K.” Washington vice chairman.
Lee Walker, a DWR stalwart, was recognized on his retirement after 34 years of service. Walker worked his way up through the ranks of the agency’s communication program, eventually retiring as the agency outreach director.
He exemplified how an agency public information and outreach professional should act – quickly and accurately. Walker was a go-to guy for information, always responsive and timely. He understood deadlines, the nature of news and that media representatives sometimes need information “after hours.”
Even though Walker was in a senior position in recent years, he never forgot how to roll up his sleeves and help with sweaty groundwork needed to get any job done. And now, it sounds like his immediate plans involve lots of fishing. Thanks Lee. We wish you well.