The Southeast Regional Advisory Council held its regular meeting at the John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River recently. Dave Bierschied welcomed everyone to the meeting and opened with an explanation of the agenda and purpose of this meeting. He stated that this meeting was to set the recommended number of big game permits, both general hunts and limited entry hunts for this region. This recommendation will be passed on to the Wildlife Board who makes the final determination.
Bierschied explained that each department representative would give a presentation on his respective subject afterwhich, the agenda would open up to the comment period.
Derris Jones, regional supervisor discussed the drought. He explained that over the past few days, the moisture that has been received is definitely helpful, but in order to recharge the springs and lakes, it will require a lot of moisture over a long period of time. Jones stressed that habitat takes priority over herd numbers and while herd size is important, until the range has recovered from the drought conditions, the recommendations are not to reduce the number of permits to hunters.
In the habitat section, Tony Wright reported that the mild winter had produced tough conditions to transplant turkeys. Only nine have been successfully moved. Of the four bear dens surveyed, two of the sows had two cubs each, one sow had one cub and the remaining sow did not have a cub. He also reported that the sage grouse count is coming up slowly. After the aerial survey of the antelope herds, it was determined that the fawn count is almost zero. The drought conditions have either rendered the does infertile or the fawns have died because of lack of feed and no water. The spring deer classification will be coming soon.
The next agenda item was chronic wasting disease in Utah. The division has proposed a rule change for the eventuality that a hunter would harvest a deer that is infected with CWD. The proposal would give the hunter two options. The first would be to keep all or part of the deer and surrender the remainder to the DWR for disposal, and the second would be to surrender the entire deer to the DWR and receive a replacement permit for the next year.
An audience member asked how widespread the disease is and how soon hunters could expect to be seeing infected deer. The response was that CWD occurs in less than 15 percent of deer, and in mule deer it is less than five percent. Of the 26,000 deer tested in Colorado, CWD was found in only 2 percent. The board accepted the rule change.
Steve Phillips explained the next item for consideration. It was a rule change to allow for some members of the RAC to serve more than two terms and to be able to come back to a RAC board after an absence of four years. This rule change would also create a position on the board for a representative of the Native Americans in Utah to sit on the board. Jordan Hatch suggested that the division take into consideration creating a board seat for a representative from SITLA also. This was taken under advisement. The board approved the rule change.
The next agenda item was setting the permit numbers for the southeast region. This item brought a lot of discussion and debate from the sportsmen present at the meeting. Jim Karpowitz, big game coordinator from the DWR, explained to the group that with the drought conditions and lack of feed, that the division is recommending that the number of permits remain at the same levels as last year and to shorten the hunt to a five day hunt in this region. If hunters do not harvest the animals, loss due to starvation and drought conditions will impact the herds badly. The permits in question were deer, elk, moose, bison, bighorn sheep and antelope for general season and limited entry.
Bill Bates reported to the board about the 2002 harvest numbers. He also reported that the buck to doe ratio is below objective in most units across the state with the southern units coming in on the low side of the average.
When asked why the numbers were so low and so far below objective, Bierschied replied that the drought has had the biggest impact on the reduced numbers.
After discussing each species in general and limited entry, the board accepted the motion to approve the DWR recommendations in the number of permits to be issued.
The dedicated hunter program was the next agenda item. The wildlife board has instructed the DWR to rework the guidelines for that program. As a general concensus, the sportsmen at the meeting strongly disagreed with the proposed changes. The board accepted the recommendation to rework the guidelines.
For hunters and sportsmen to get involved with the organization of the RAC board and the workings of the DWR, go to the website www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meeting/, read the schedule and attend the RAC meeting in your area.
Also available on the website are agendas for the meetings and the schedule for the year.
All aspects of the hunting experience are discussed at certain times each year.
To learn more about what is discussed and when, either log on to the website or contact a RAC member in your area.