BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Although they did a better job this year than last, Alabama hunters didn’t do enough in voluntarily reporting all the deer they killed this hunting season, a state conservation official says.
Prodded by an aggressive public information campaign by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, hunters reported killing more than 18,500 deer during the season, which ends Monday as legal hunting closes in southwest Alabama.
Chuck Sykes, director of the state Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, said hunters reported their kills far more often this season than in past years, when as few as 1,000 kills might be reported during a season.
But hunter surveys and statistical analysis show the number still is only a small fraction of the deer that were actually killed in Alabama, he said.
“We had about 260,000 estimated killed last year,” Sykes said. “With what we got (this year) you’re looking at only 3 or 4 percent of what was actually killed.”
The state said it needs an accurate count of the number of deer that are killed, plus the size and gender of the animals, to determine the health of the state’s herd, and it tried to require hunters to report their kills this season through a program called “Game Check.”
Legislative opponents blocked the rule at the last minute, citing concerns over possible fines and technology, so reporting remained only voluntary for the roughly 171,000 Alabama residents who purchased all-game hunting licenses.
Sykes said the wildlife agency will consider again whether to attempt to make the reporting requirement mandatory for all hunters in the state.
“Biologically I think it’s a necessity. But I’ve found out that biological facts and science sometimes don’t win out. That’s a shame,” said Sykes.
The state also uses mail surveys completed by hunters to estimate the numbers and health of deer killed each season, Sykes said, but compliance with that program also is spotty.
Auburn University will analyze the results of the voluntary reporting and survey results to determine whether researchers can develop an statistically valid picture of the state’s deer herd and the number of animals killed by hunters, said Sykes.
The voluntarily reported statistics showed that 18,501 deer were killed through the middle of last week. Hunters reported killing deer in each of the state’s 67 counties, with the largest number being reported in Jackson County, where hunters reported killing more than 730 deer.
Hunters most often reported deer by an automated telephone system, Sykes said, with 47 percent of all the kills coming in that way. Hunters used a smartphone application to report 32 percent of kills and used a website to report 21 percent of the deer, he said.
Hunting season closed in most of Alabama at the end of January, but it continued in parts of southwest Alabama through Monday.