Thursday, September 08, 2005

Bill Cochran's Field Reports: Bear hunters want longer chase season

Bill Cochran Bill Cochran is a Roanoke Times outdoors columnist.

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A proposal to open the bear hound training season two weeks earlier attracted a number of bear hunters to a Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ public hearing in Roanoke last week. The hunters weren’t there to express joy over getting extra chase days. They vented disappointment that they didn’t get more.

The proposal under consideration would have the season open the second Saturday in August, rather than the current last Saturday in August. The hunters said they had been told that the original proposal would have established an Aug. 1 opening date, and that’s what they wanted.

They chastised the U.S. Forest Service, blaming it for the less lucrative opening.

The original proposal did recommend an Aug. 1 opening, but forest service officials didn’t buy into that.

During the current chase season there is vandalism to gates and illegal use of closed roads, said John Bellemore, forest ecology leader for the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Bellemore went along with the two-week addition, but on a trail basis during which time the activities of bear hunters would be monitored by forest officials, the DGIF and the Virginia Bear Hunters Association.

“Bear hunters are being treated like a bunch of crooks,” said one bear hunters at the Roanoke meeting.

“We don’t want to be your adversary,” said Jim Bowman, a DGIF biologist. “What we want to be is working with you people.”

The proposal was a compromise worked out with the DGIF, the forest service and the Virginia Bear Hunters Association, said Bob Ellis, assistant chief of the DGIF wildlife division.

“It is a pretty big step, two extra weeks,” said Dave Steffen, a DGIF biologist. “Not just everyone loves bear hunting and bear hunters. If we push it too fast we may be in trouble.”

BILL

WARDENS CRASH DOVE PARTIES

Some hunters in Halifax, Dinwiddie and Prince Edwards counties were having a great opening day dove hunt Saturday -- until the game wardens arrived. The fields being hunted were under surveillance by wardens because they had been baited, which is illegal.

“Those were good hunts until the game wardens magically appeared and ruined it for everybody,” said Warden Capt. Ron Henry.

Elsewhere, there was not a huge amount of activity, said Henry. “Many [corn] fields have not been cut,” he said.

On the good side, Henry said he did not get any reports of accidents.

BILL

GOOSE NUMBERS DOWN; HUNTERS SUCCESS UP

The number of resident Canada geese in Virginia for the September season, which opened last Thursday, is the lowest in 10 years, but the kill could be the highest since the first such season in 1993.

Officials of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries estimate that the resident goose population is 141,377. That is down from a high of 264,612 in 1998 and the lowest since 1995, when the population was estimated at 151,043.

The annual September kill has increased every year since 1993 with the exception of one. Last year it reached 17,000 birds. The only year it didn’t go up was 2001.

The liberal regulations have attracted growing number of hunters, thus boosting the annual take, wildlife officials say. Hunters who enjoy the most success have access to hotspots where these birds are abundant to the point of being a nuisance. The resident goose population began to increase significantly in the 1980s and reached a peak in the 1990s.

This year’ early season continues through Sept. 24 with a five-per day limit.

BILL

COMMENTS ON HUNTING/FISHING PROPOSALS

Sportsmen interested in commenting on fishing, hunting, boating, trapping and non-game proposals made by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries can do so online through Oct. 10. Here’s how it works:

1. Go to the comment homepage: dgif.virginia.gov/regulations/display.asp.

2. Pick a regulation amendment of interest to you, and click on it.

3. After reading the summary and rationale, opt to comment at the bottom of the page.

4. That will take you to a disclaimer. Read this and indicate you've done so by clicking "yes."

5. That takes you to where you'll need to identify yourself for the public record. Fill in your name, address, and phone number, and your email if you choose to.

6. Write in your comments.

7. Submit.

DGIF officials also are soliciting comments during a series of public hearings being held across the state. A half-dozen remain, as listed below:

Sep. 8, Centreville, Izaak Walton League Building

Sep.19, Madison, Madison Fire Hall

Sep. 20, Richmond, DGIF headquarters

Sep. 21, South Boston, Halifax County High School

Sep. 22, Suffolk, Holiday Inn. Suffolk

Sep. 26, Warsaw, Rappahannock Community College

The public may also comment on the proposed regulations by email, RegComments@dgif.virginia.gov), surface mail, Phil Smith, Policy Analyst and Regulatory Coordinator, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 4016 West Broad Street, Richmond, Virginia 23230 or at the October 27 board meeting, 9 a.m., 4000 W. Broad Street in Richmond.

BILL

OUTDOOR BRIEFS

>Mike Smith of Floyd has written a new fishing guidebook, this one titled “Fishing the Greenbrier Valley: An Angler’s Guide.” Previous fishing guides by Smith are “Fishing the New River Valley: An Angler’s Guide,” “Fishing the Roanoke Valley: An Angler’s Guide and “Fishing the Shenandoah Valley: An Angler’s Guide” all published by University of Virginia Press, upress.virginia.edu.

>Sportsmen hunting at Fort A. P. Hill this season will be required to pass a criminal background check, which will take time and money.

>Looking for a nearby license agent where you can buy a hunting or fishing license or one of the new state duck stamps? Check the DGIF Web site: dgif.virginia.gov.

>The Virginia Invasive Species Council has created an advisory panel to find ways to ward off invasive species. The voracious northern snakehead fish is one such species, but there are many more that pose a threat to Virginia’s native resources.

>The National Wild Turkey Federation recently donated $100,000 in support of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Fund, which has played a key role in fending off frivolous lawsuits against the firearm industry. The federation has contributed more than $1 million to the fund during recent years. Said Rob Keck, CEO of the federation: “Without shooting, there is no hunting. Without hunting, there is no conservation. Without conservation, there are no wild turkeys or other wildlife.”

>The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced a new grant program called the Open Rivers Initiative designed to provide funding to communities for removing obsolete and derelict stream barriers such as dams. There are currently more than 2 million small dams and other barriers blocking the passage of fish in the United States.

>Dr. Michael Hutchins of Silver Spring, Maryland, has been named Executive Director of The Wildlife Society. Hutchins was selected from over 40 highly qualified candidates. Prior to the new assignment he was Adjunct Associate Professor at the University

of Maryland's Graduate Program in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development.

BILL

SALTWATER TOURNAMENT

There are new leaders in the dolphin and gray triggerfish categories of the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament. Here are the standings:

BLACK DRUM: 93 pounds, 9 ounces, Willie McWhite, Jr., Richmond, lower eastern Chesapeake Bay.

COBIA: 89 pounds, Mark Shaffer, Fredericksburg, upper eastern Chesapeake Bay.

CROAKER: 4-pounds, 8 ounces, Elliott Souldourian, Virginia Beach, lower western Chesapeake Bay.

DOLPHIN: 52 pounds, Willi Fenske, Hopewell, ocean off Virginia Beach.

FLOUNDER: 17 pounds, 2 ounces, Hopie Firth, Poquoson, lower western Chesapeake Bay.

GRAY TRIGGERFISH: 4 pounds, 12 ounces, James Daughtrey III, Suffolk, lower eastern Chesapeake Bay.

GRAY TROUT: 12 pounds, 14 ounces, William Flipin, Hayes, upper eastern Chesapeake Bay.

KING MACKEREL, 47 pounds, Frank Riganto, Virginia Beach off Virginia Beach.

KINGFISH: 1 pound, 12 ounces, Damon Moore, Sterling, off Virginia Beach.

SEA BASS: 6 pounds, 14 ounces, Chad Stoker, Chesapeake, off Virginia Beach.

SHEEPSHEAD: 16 pounds, 8 ounces, Steven Hord, Williamsburg, lower-western Chesapeake Bay.

SPADEFISH: 12 pounds, 8 ounces, Jerry Carnell, Jr. Oxford, N.C. upper eastern Chesapeake Bay.

SPANISH MACKEREL: 8 pounds, Charles Lewis III, Pasadena, Md., ocean off Eastern Shore.

SPECKLED TROUT: 11 pounds, 3 ounces, Brain Pomije, Chesapeake, Elizabeth River.

SPOT: 1 pound, 4 ounces, Robert Richardson, Richmond, Elizabeth River.

STRIPED BASS: 63 pounds, 8 ounces, state record, Paul Leckner, Greenbackville, Bradford Bay.

TAUTOG: 18 pounds, 4 ounces, Larry Larue, Virginia Beach, ocean off Virginia Beach.

TUNA (BLUEFIN) 129 pounds, Andrew Kidd, Richmond, ocean off Virginia Beach.

TUNA: 90 pounds, 8 ounces, John Mackey, Virginia Beach, ocean off Virginia Beach.

WAHOO: 83 pounds, 3 ounces, John Hamilton, Norfolk, ocean off Eastern Shore.

BILL

MEETINGS/EVENTS/SEASONS

Virginia In-Water Boat Expo, Sept 9-11, The Waterside Marina and Town Point Park, Norfolk, hundreds of boats in water and out, tickets and show information from virginiaboatexpo.com, 757-441-2345.

Early Canada goose season through Sept. 24, 5 per day limit.

Department of Game and Inland Fisheries public hearing on hunting, fishing and wildlife proposals, 6:30 p.m., Sept. 8, Izaak Walton League Building, Centerville

Western Division of Virginia Big Game Contest, Sept. 10 and 11, Rockingham County Fairgrounds near Harrisonburg, see vpsa.org for details.

Urban archery season, Sept. 17-30 and Jan. 9-25.

Department of Game and Inland Fisheries public hearing on hunting, fishing and wildlife proposals, 6:30 p.m., Sept. 19, Madison Fire Department Fire Hall, Madison.

Department of Game and Inland Fisheries public hearing on hunting, fishing and wildlife proposals, 6:30 p.m., Sept. 20, DGIF Headquarters, Richmond

Department of Game and Inland Fisheries public hearing on hunting, fishing and wildlife proposals, 6:30 p.m., Sept. 21, Halifax County High School, South Boston

Department of Game and Inland Fisheries public hearing on hunting, fishing and wildlife proposals, 6:30 p.m., Sept. 22, Holiday Inn, Suffolk

Eastern Division and state finals of Virginia Big Game Contest, Sept. 24 and 25, Southampton County Fairgrounds, Franklin, see vpsa.org for details.

Department of Game and Inland Fisheries public hearing on hunting, fishing and wildlife proposals, 6:30 p.m., Sept. 26, Rappahannock Community College, Warsaw

Bowhunting/crossbow season, Oct. 1-Nov. 18 and Dec. 5-Jan. 7.

Roanoke Valley Friends of NRA banquet, Oct. 15, Salem Civic Center, $30 single, $50 couple, 27 firearms and other items to give away, proceeds go to grants and programs for youth and sports shooting programs, information from Chris Kessler, 884-3259.

Final action on proposed hunting, fishing, trapping, boating and non-game proposals by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Oct. 27, 9 a.m. DGIF headquarters, 4000 West Broad Street, Richmond.

H.C. Edwards Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society banquet, Oct. 28, Augusta Expoland, Fisherville, $55 individuals, $75 individual and guest, information from Matt Smith, 540-432-7732 (W) or 540-459-3559 (H).

Fall turkey hunting season, Oct. 31-Nov. 12; Nov. 24 and Dec. 12-Jan. 7.

Muzzleloading season east of Blue Ridge Mountains, Nov. 5-18.

Wilderness First Aid class, Nov. 5 and 6, Blacksburg, 18-hour, two-day study, cost is $160, registration and information from http://wfa.net.

Muzzleloading season west of Blue Ridge Mountains, Nov. 12-18

Deer hunting season west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Nov. 19-Dec. 3

Deer hunting season east of Blue Ridge Mountains, Nov. 19-Jan. 7

Board meeting of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Nov. 29, 9 a.m., DGIF headquarters, 4000 W. Broad Street, Richmond.

Board meeting of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Dec. 16, 9 a.m., DGIF headquarters, 4000 W. Broad Street, Richmond.

Late muzzleloading season, Dec. 17-Jan. 7.

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