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By now, you have probably heard about the FWC’s plan to establish a deer harvest reporting system for Florida. In case you’re unaware of what has been proposed, let me take a moment to paint the broad strokes for you.

Since we’ve recently established new zones and season dates, the next step in the 10-year Florida Deer Management Plan is to develop and operate a harvest reporting system both online and via telephone.

The purpose of this system will be to record harvest information in order to get a better picture of how many deer we hunters are taking, and when and where those harvests are taking place.

The proposed system will have a set window from the time of harvest until the time you must call in (or go online) and report your kill. You will also be required to keep a harvest log attached to your license and write in the date, time, sex and location of your harvest prior to moving it. FWC hopes to accomplish several things through this new reporting system.

Not only will it give biologists and land managers a better understanding and more accurate count of how many deer we shoot, but it will show trends in hunter migration, peak hunting times, locations of harvests, number of hunters with multiple harvests and other data needed to better manage our deer herd.

Eventually, the idea is that, with more information, FWC can use this data to manage area-specific herds by Deer Management Units (DMUs), located within the various new zones. Each zone will be broken into different DMUs by vegetation and geological features.

For instance, Zone A (located south of SR 70 in South Florida) may have as many as 3 or 4 DMUs identifying the major features of that region, one each for the Big Cypress, the Sawgrass, the Prairies and Scrubs and the Flatwoods.

Each zone will have its own DMUs, and deer within them will be monitored and managed according to their needs. Monitoring the information in each geographically-diverse location will allow biologists and land managers to set harvest rules for those specific areas so that a robust and thriving deer herd can be achieved.

These parameters may include limiting or increasing harvest, shooting more or fewer does, antler restrictions, expanding or reducing quota numbers, and so on. The desired end result being that every hunter will have a better hunting experience as time goes on, and deer numbers can theoretically reach sustainable capacity in each DMU.

As a hunter, you may be asking yourself, “What role do I have in making these decisions that will affect how this system will operate?”

First, FWC needs to know how likely you are to report your harvest in a timely manner. The truth is, the farther away you get from the time of harvest, the less likely you are to make the phone call and input the information.

FWC staff needs to know how long is long enough to give you an opportunity to call in your harvest without creating an unreasonable burden on you as a hunter. If you hunt close to home or camp in an area with phone service, that window of time may not need to be much more than 12 to 24 hours.

But if you hunt for a couple days out in a primitive area, it may be unreasonable to ask you to travel back to civilization every time you harvest a deer. In that case, maybe 48-72 hours is more reasonable.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “What happens if we don’t report every deer we shoot?” Let me warn you that not reporting your harvest may result in low numbers that would make biologists think there are not enough animals in a given area to warrant high harvest rates. In those cases, you would see a reduction of hunting opportunity through the loss of quota permits or (eventually) through reduced doe tags once the state moves to a seasonal bag limit.

When it comes to reporting your harvest, honesty is the best policy. How about this written deer log? What would stop people from just throwing it away and starting a fresh one without reporting their harvest?

If you read this magazine, you should know by now that next season you will be required to...

For the conclusion of this article, please see page 26 of the May Issue for this month's "Views from the Blind" by Chuck Echenique

Chuck Echenique is a Florida native, outdoorsman and hunter who owns Rebel Yelp Calls and Outfitters in Thonotosassa, Fla. Chuck was recently named to the FWC’s Deer Management Technical Advisory Group and works with many hunting related issues. He is a pro-staff member with Rig’em Right and a field staffer with Final Approach. He is a past president and district director with NWTF and current board member of DU and NWTF. He has served as a hunter’s safety instructor since 1989 and worked as a hunting guide since 1995.