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Advisory Board Puts Rest of Chilton on Permit System
By DAVID RAINER
In its last meeting of 2011, the Alabama Conservation Advisory Board voted unanimously to place that area of Chilton County still open to dog deer hunting on the permit system. Those portions of Chilton County previously closed to dog deer hunting will not be affected and will remain closed to dog deer hunting. The board also voted to relax the restriction on the use of buckshot during the stalk-only gun deer season.
Board member Joey Dobbs of Birmingham, who has raised the issue of problems with dog deer hunting in Chilton County at board meetings earlier this year, made the motion to put the portion of the county not already closed to dog deer hunting on the permit system, which will require those hunting clubs who wish to hunt deer with dogs to apply for a permit. Under the permit system, the hunting club would be subject to special restrictions in addition to the state’s game laws.
The use of buckshot had been restricted to the dates of dog deer season. The action would lift that restriction and buckshot will be allowed during the entire gun deer season. Rules and regulations on wildlife management areas are not affected by this action. Board member Grady Hartzog of Eufaula said expanding the use of buckshot would benefit young hunters and those hunters who were participating in man-drives.
Wynnton Melton of Geneva County, a longtime dog deer hunter, reported significant progress in reducing the number of complaints about dog deer hunting in southeast Alabama.
“We are on the permit system,” Melton said. “It isn’t perfect. Not every single person is going to be satisfied. It’ll never be. You’re never going to get that to happen. But I promise you that problems associated with deer hunting with the hounds in southeast Alabama is down by 90 percent. The road hunting is just gone. I do think (the permit system) is putting more responsibility back on each club. I think there’s a change in the mentality of a lot of the dog (deer) hunters. I believe they’re beginning to respect the people around them more.
“You will have problems with dogs trespassing. They get away from you once in a while. But the road hunting, which all through these years has been the issue of major concern, has just about gone.”
The issue of a February deer season was broached only momentarily when rabbit hunter Louie Mattocks of Salem expressed his opposition. Board Chairman Dan Moultrie said a study to determine the dates of peak breeding activity is ongoing, and any consideration for a change in deer season dates would only come after the scientific data has been collected and thoroughly analyzed.
During the public testimony at Lakepoint Lodge on Lake Eufaula, Joe Young, owner of Young’s Bigmouth Shop, the oldest bait shop on the lake, expressed his concern about the bass fishing on Eufaula, known as one of the top bass fisheries in the nation. He used the analogy of Barbour County’s deer herd to explain the problem with the bass fishing.
“In ’97, we had quantity deer in Barbour County, we did not have quality deer,” Young said. “It took us 10 years to get a quality deer program in Barbour County. We are moving to the other side of the page. We’re starting to have our quality deer. Of all the deer we processed this year, we had more 150-plus (antler size) deer than before. We need y’all to consider something to do with our bass, because now we have quantity bass in Lake Eufaula. We do not have the quality we had in the 70s to the late 80s. All the fish go back in the lake. We’ve got a big tournament on the lake this weekend. Ninety-five percent of those fish will go back in the lake. We have another spawn next spring and we’ve got that many more on board.
“We would like to see something done to see us move back to the quality fish we used to have. If you came here in the mid 70s and were going to fish for three days, I could guarantee you were going to catch a five-pound or better bass. You look at the bass caught in this tournament and see how many you have over five pounds.”
Hartzog said the problem with Lake Eufaula is similar to the owner of a private lake where the number of bass needs to be controlled.
“With all these tournaments going on and the fish going back in, it’s just like pond management – you need to take X number of fish out per year in order to maintain the quality fishing,” Hartzog said. “I want Fisheries to see what we can do about that.”
Hartzog asked Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) to monitor the catch at the FLW tournament held at Eufaula. The number and condition of the bass weighed in were recorded by District IV fisheries biologist Ken Weathers, who will prepare a report for the board.
Bob Shipp, board member from Mobile, expressed a desire to protect two species from gill-netting activities – Spanish mackerel and pompano. Shipp, longtime judge for the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, said the pressure on the Spanish population from gill-netting prompted the rodeo to drop the species from its jackpot categories.
“It’s not my intention to make any motions here, and it’s not my intention to move to ban gill nets,” said Shipp, head of Marine Sciences at the University of South Alabama. “But, there are certain aspects of the gill-net fishery that are creating a serious problem, and have been a problem for many years on the coast. I am not anti-commercial fishing. My son owns two seafood restaurants in Orange Beach and is very supportive of commercial fishing. But there are certain aspects of the gill-net fishery that need attention, and we do need to address it.”
In other action, the board granted a Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries request to make adjustments in the trapping and fur-bearing animal regulations to protect the spotted skunk (civet cat) because of the scarcity of the species in the state.
Hartzog again expressed support of the Forever Wild program, which is under consideration in the Alabama Legislature. The Alabama Senate passed legislation that would put the program on the November 2012 as a constitutional amendment. The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Chauncey Wood III, who represents the 1,020 volunteer fire departments in the state as president of the Alabama Association of Volunteer Fire Departments, took the opportunity during public testimony to thank everyone who contributed to the tornado recovery work. He said nine volunteer fire departments were totally destroyed and five damaged in the unprecedented outbreak of deadly tornadoes in north Alabama recently.
“I came to say ‘thank you’ for everything Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, State Lands and everybody else in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has done to help with this tornadic damage,” Wood said. “We thought what happened in Enterprise (2007 tornado) was horrific. Folks, I was in Vietnam. I’ve seen a war zone. Hackleburg and Tuscaloosa was like nothing I’ve seen before. I came to say ‘thank you’ and we appreciate all your hard work.”
Both the Alabama Seafood Association and Organized Seafood of Alabama sent teams of volunteers to the damaged areas to provide seafood to the emergency workers and displaced residents.
Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr. also praised members of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for their tornado relief efforts.
“I, too, also want to thank all the volunteers, first responders, law enforcement,” Guy said. “All the members of our department, I’m real proud of. Of course, we see it as our responsibility, but it’s also a great sacrifice by our law enforcement officers and other staff members who have to respond to these disasters on the magnitude we had to do on this occasion.”