The Wildlife Division staff at the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries brought a bunch of proposed hunting regulations changes to the agency’s board of directors Tuesday.
The meeting’s proposed change that will likely generate the most discussion wasn’t among them.
Heeding requests from members of the Virginia Bear Hunters Association, the board decided to forward to the public the idea of pulling the bear tag off the big game license and establishing a separate bear tag. The bear tag would cost residents $25 and non-residents $150, prices that are set in the code that give the DGIF the authority to establish the separate bear tag.
The DGIF has been down this road before, and not long ago. The board made the same suggestion in 2009. Many hunters balked at the idea. Hunters who happen to encounter bear while hunting deer typically account for more than half of Virginia’s bear kill. But that is a relatively rare opportunity, and many of those hunters feel that a $25 fee annually just for the off chance of seeing a bear would make the separate tag cost prohibitive. Some say the tag is an attempt by the VBHA, a group for hunters who use hounds to pursue black bears, to largely monopolize the resource.
The VBHA says that the separate tag could generate much-needed revenue for the DGIF, with those funds not only being used to enhance the state’s bear program but also to help other fish and wildlife resources.
The meeting produced few suggested changes to deer rules, which was not surprising. Proposed changes have recently leaned heavily toward more liberal deer regs, but after a big drop in the kill this past fall the DGIF staff was understandably wary about hitting the herd too much.
The DGIF continues to look for ways to increase interest in fall turkey hunting, and not by allowing deer hunters more chances to shoot the birds. The board is proposing a two-week season in January, after deer season has gone out. The hope is that, with no opportunity to deer hunt, hunters will be willing to go after turkeys. Another proposal will move up the start of the December turkey season segment west of the Blue Ridge by a week, but will also end that four-week segment a week early, eliminating the overlap with the final week of the late muzzleloader season.
But, back to the bear license.
Again, general feedback the last time around was heavily against the proposal. Do you all feel any differently now? And, what would it take for hunters to support a separate bear tag? Or, for that matter, separate tags for deer, bear and turkeys (as was sought by a General Assembly bill that failed)?