Saturday, November 08, 2008

Stewards Of Our Natural Resources

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The DNR would like every hunter in the state to be a steward of our natural resources. They would like every sportsman to pitch in and do their share toward helping to manage our resources in a sound and scientific manner.

That is all fine, great and wonderful, as far as it goes. Many hunters would love to help, and many have suggested ways they could help, but the DNR isn’t paying much attention these days. They need all the free help they can get in this day of early retirements, a continuing loss of manpower, and many hunters are willing to.

The DNR says they don’t have the manpower and such plans wouldn’t work. It’s my guess that having a mandatory deer check-in process would produce far more accurate figures on total deer kill, buck-to-doe kill ratios, and possible early warning signs for Bovine tuberculosis, Chronic Wasting Disease and Equine encephalitis than what they have going now. Their claims of it not working is unsubstantiated. The DNR would never know if it would work until they give this concept a chance.

Many hunters have volunteered to promote and staff mandatory check-ins, and many would man a check-in station. The DNR isn’t interested, and furthermore, many biologists act as if the public is trying to tell them how to do their job. Well, if one longtime method doesn’t seem to be working well and the DNR gradually continues to lose the confidence of the hunting public, than the thing is broke and it needs fixing.

Do we have to wait until the wheels fall off the Michigan deer herd management program completely before someone does something about it?

Such check-in stations could be made to work. I’ve spoke with hundreds of hunters who say they would volunteer a morning or evening to work a check station. They would take hunter information about where the buck, doe or fawn was killed, date of kill, hunter’s name and address, check the kill tag, and whether it was a bow or firearm kill plus other possible questions. This information, over the 90-day hunting season, would deliver more accurate deer kill data than counting deer at the Mackinac Bridge, highway check stations (which are not mandatory), and standing on overpasses and counting deer passing below on cars and trucks.

Hunters want accurate deer figures and not estimates derived from computer models at the Lansing DNR headquarters. Gone would be the combo license, and in would come greater knowledge and the public would be playing a very important role in deer herd management. Hunters would have three business days to bring in their buck, doe or fawn and have it documented.

The area wildlife biologist could choose some key people in each area to put the word out, and I’d bet that hunters would cooperate with enthusiasm. A two-hour instruction period would teach people which questions to ask, what to look for, and how to fill out individual reports. These reports from each check station could be mailed or hand delivered to various DNR offices on a weekly basis.

Granted, this would cause a bit more work for the area biologist but why couldn’t they ask for volunteer help to collate information? I believe many people would be happy to help, and it would benefit our deer herd and help the DNR build a better rapport with hunters.

As it stands now, when someone makes a suggestion, those suggestions often are rejected out of hand. I have the greatest respect for the men and women of the DNR, but they can be bullheaded. I haven’t figured out whether they feel sportsmen are trying to tell them what to do or if they just do not want to work with civilians. Whatever the reason, the DNR is not doing a very good job of working with the public. It’s little wonder the public feels alienated.

I would hope it’s not a case of them not wanting to work with civilians. Be obnoxious or tease a timid dog long enough, and that mutt might bite the hand that feeds it. The DNR needs help; volunteers can work for free, and this could help cement a solid relationship between this state agency and the people who help pay their wages.

And, in the long run, our wildlife would benefit. This could be a win-win situation, but the DNR must make the first move. The hunters have spoken, and agreed to help. It’s time for a friendlier DNR Wildlife Division, and the only way to get along is to get along.

This is not, and should not be, an adversarial situation. Hunters want to help, and they want something closer to real-life figures than what they’ve been getting for many years. The DNR must do something to build their image among sportsmen and other citizens of this state.

Posted by Dave Richey on 11/08 at 05:10 PM
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