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The FWC has directed staff to advertise new rule proposals...

requiring all hunters to tag harvested white-tailed deer and report the harvest to the FWC beginning with the 2011-12 hunting season.

At their Dec. 1, 2010 meeting, FWC commissioners directed staff to move forward with implementing a deer harvest and tag reporting system, as well as providing a menu of options regarding how license-exempt hunters (individuals 65 and older and 16 and under) would report their harvest.

The proposed harvest reporting system would utilize a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week telephone and Internet system, as well as tags to attach to deer.

Some of the information hunters would have to report includes their customer number, date of harvest, county, method of take (with or without dogs), type of deer (antlered buck, button buck or doe) and number of antler points.

The tag will have to be attached to the deer before field dressing or transporting the animal to a camp or residence. Sometime before midnight the day after leaving the hunted land unit, the hunter would need to report the harvest via telephone or computer (Internet).

After the deer is reported, hunters would receive a confirmation number which would be immediately recorded on the harvest tag. Harvest tags would remain on the deer until processed and packaged for consumption.

Hunters would be required to report their harvest prior to dropping it off at a taxidermist or meat processor or prior to leaving the state. Taxidermists and commercial meat processors would be required to maintain a record of deer they receive.

All compiled statewide harvest data would be available to the public online and updated daily, but would not include hunters’ personal information.

“We want to make this system as friendly as possible for Florida’s hunters,” said Cory Morea, FWC biologist and deer management program coordinator. “We need the data to give Florida hunters what many of them have asked for – that is better management of the state’s deer herd, and at a more local level. This will give us one of the tools to enable us to do that.”

The proposed harvest reporting system is a result of the FWC’s 10-Year Deer Management Strategic Plan and the FWC’s desire to obtain more accurate harvest data. Better data is critical to the success of the strategic plan.

One of the main objectives of the FWC’s Deer Management Plan is to ensure robust deer populations and manage Florida’s deer on a local level to better meet the area-specific needs and desires of the public.

Deer management units (DMUs) will eventually be established within each hunting zone to allow more detailed management of local deer populations by focusing management efforts on a smaller geographic scale than currently possible. A harvest reporting system in conjunction with DMUs will give FWC staff the tools needed to respond to hunter’s desires.

Both FWC staff and stakeholders have strongly supported a harvest reporting system under which hunters report how many (and where) deer are harvested annually.

The new rules could be approved for final adoption at the February 2011 Commission meeting and would become effective July 1, 2011, and apply to the 2011-12 hunting season.

For more detailed information on the proposed harvest-reporting system, go to MyFWC.com/Deer.

Tagging and reporting game harvests is commonly done in many states, and FWC staff reviewed several other states’ harvest-reporting systems and spoke with other states’ deer managers to gain additional insight on what might work well in Florida.

When developing components of a possible harvest reporting system for Florida, FWC staff wanted a system that is hunter-friendly and not burdensome.

FWC staff presented a draft proposal at five public meetings across the state and gathered input and feedback through an online poll.

Accurate harvest information is the cornerstone of good deer management. Without a reliable estimate of the harvest it is difficult to affect changes in target deer populations.

FWC currently conducts a mail/internet survey annually to determine an estimate of deer harvested and estimated hunter effort. Statewide deer harvest estimates are measured by a questionnaire sent out to a portion of license holders.

This poses problems in sampling because many Floridians are not required to purchase a license. The results do not provide sufficient data to reliably estimate harvest on a county or even regional scale.

Currently, harvest estimates for Florida public hunting areas are only available for areas that have staffed check stations.

Should a harvest reporting system be implemented by the Commission, FWC staff would continue to conduct the mail/internet survey annually as a secondary estimate of harvest and to continue to gather hunter effort data.

Biological staff use harvest and hunter effort data as indicators of abundance, and this information is vital to developing a deer population model for Florida.

Having accurate harvest information would also aid staff in developing harvest goals for DMUs in the future by providing data that can be used to track harvest over time to determine how management goals are being accomplished.