Hunters react to deer limit changes

  • Jul. 26, 2003 5:00 a.m.

By Heidi Bevington-The provincial government has changed hunting regulations on the islands to allow hunters to kill more deer – if they can find them.
Last week, the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection announced that the bag limit for black-tailed here will increase to 15 from 10, and the possession limit will increase to five from three. The change is being implemented in an effort to reduce the number of deer, which are not native to the islands and were introduced in the early 1900s.
Doe season now begins Sept. 1, about a month earlier than it used to. Tom Smith, wildlife officer with the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection said by that time the fawns are pretty much weaned. Fawns are also classed as antlerless deer, so they may also be hunted beginning in September. The season for bucks – June through February – remains unchanged.
Queen Charlotte resident Greg Martin has been hunting on islands for 34 years, and he agrees with the regulation changes, although he said it is getting harder to find deer close to populated areas.
About three-quarters of deer tend to have a summer and winter home range that they stick to, with the other quarter – many of them male – tending to wander over a larger area, Mr. Martin said.
“Deer can be cleared out of an area by heavy hunting but still be thick elsewhere,” he said.
Gardeners frustrated by the deer munching their lettuce may be surprised to hear there’s a deer shortage. Since 1983, residential areas have been no shooting zones, and deer have learned that these areas are safe, says Mr. Martin. In more remote areas that are harder for hunters to access, he sees signs the deer population is healthy.
The increase in the bag limit makes it worthwhile for hunters to go to more remote areas in search of deer, he said.
“I know there is fear that this will draw off island hunters, but they don’t have the advantage,” that islanders have of knowing the best places to hunt, Mr. Martin said.
Donna Rhindress of Tlell has been hunting on the islands for five years. She said she agrees with the regulation changes as well.
“I’m happy with the change. As long as people need the meat, they should be allowed to go and get it,” she said. “I think it’s a good time for it too, because with the economy the way it is people can use that resource.”
“I think there’s a lot of deer on the islands, but I don’t think there are too many. I’ve been in lots of clear cuts where trees are growing,” she continued. “I don’t see the problem of cedar browse. I see lots of cedar growing.”
And Ms Rhindress is glad of the increase to the bag limit, because she thinks it will make a hunting trip-especially one to a more remote area-more worthwhile for the hunter. It will also possibly draw off island hunters here, which she doesn’t think is a problem. However, “I don’t think there’s much benefit for islanders” because “they tend to come here fully equipped,” she said.
Although she agrees with the increase in the deer limit, Ms Rhindress said she is opposed to the longer doe season.
“I think the doe season is actually too long now. I think it’s just a way to kill off more deer,” she said.
Killing deer early in the season will leave fawns, who will either die of exposure or grow to maturity in a weakened condition. “I won’t participate in that,” she said.
Another hunter, Ron Haralson of Port Clements, is completely opposed to the regulation changes.
“Deer should be managed for the people who live here and their needs. Islanders could shoot all the deer they needed under the old regulations and they don’t need any more. What is anyone going to do with more than ten deer?” he asked.
He is “offended with the concept that hunters from off islands can come here and haul away six deer each.”
Mr. Haralson said the islands are not overpopulated with deer. The population is stable, perhaps declining, since the 1950s he said. “It seems to me that trying to reduce a declining population is risky,” he said.
And he doesn’t like the September opening on doe season before the fawns are weaned. It’s “cold blooded to kill the does and leave the fawns to starve over the winter.”
Mr. Haralson wrote to the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection to protest the changes when they were proposed earlier this year, and he said he will write again now that the regulation have been enacted.