QDMA makes a bid to take over deer regs

ESCANABA — Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) has been in existence since 1937 and is the longest running continuous conservation cooperative of its kind in Michigan.

The 40,000-plus members of Michigan United Conservation Clubs come from all walks of life, united by their shared commitment to conserving Michigan’s natural resources and defending our rights to hunt, fish and trap.

Many are members of one of their almost 250 affiliated clubs, such as a local rod and gun club or a statewide conservation organization. Tens of thousands are individual members who receive a subscription to Michigan Out-of-Doors Magazine, and hundreds have earned their memberships by volunteering for wildlife habitat through our On the Ground (OTG) program.

The policies of MUCC are set by the membership through the resolution process. Each resolution is submitted via region and if adopted at that level, is then sent onto the annual convention for debate and voting.

The Upper Peninsula is also represented by a similar group, the U.P. Sportsmen’s Alliance (UPSA). They are total volunteer organization with emphasis on U.P. issues and do consider statewide policy review when it comes to regulations set by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and Michigan Legislature in Lansing.

An advantage MUCC has over UPSA is that they do have paid specialized staff and immediate contact with the MDNR and State Legislature. They’re headquartered in Lansing and thus have a little quicker response time. The two entities have worked in concert on many occasions as well as had differences on some issues. While the UP is represented in MUCC by several clubs and a good number of individual members, there are times when affiliates from the Lower Peninsula consider submitting a resolution for statewide policy that could negatively impact the UP. Such was the case last week at the MUCC Convention.

Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) of Michigan submitted a resolution that calls for the MDNR (via the Natural Resources Commission – NRC) to amend its policy on mandatory antler point restrictions (APRs) for deer hunting. Currently, the NRC endorses volunteer APRs for private land owners. They do allow mandatory restrictions on public land if a request is done through an approval process.

If someone wishes to implement mandatory APRs within an individual or collective group of Deer Management Units (DMUs), it must first issue a survey of want among hunting license holders (including those from the affected area). There must be a majority response to the survey and 66% affirmation in order for it to be implemented. The application and process costs are charged to the sponsor group, which in this case has been QDMA.

QDMA submitted two resolutions at the MUCC convention that were directly related to APRs. Resolution #2 Antler Point Restrictions (APR) Initiative Acceleration – called for a streamline to the process and elimination of cost responsibility of the sponsor.

Within the “whereas” narrative of the resolution, QDMA sites what they believed to be not only a benefit of APRs, but a need for extended restrictions to assure a better deer herd. It currently takes at least one year for the proposed APR process to run its course and QDMA wants it “to take no more than a calendar year from initiation to regulation change and more quickly when practical.” It again stated no cost should be born by the sponsor.

Most of those speaking in objection to the resolution were not disagreeing with the end request, what they objected to was how QDMA suggested APRs are the best mechanism for a quality hunt and the future and the balance of deer populations. Members of the U.P. contingent argued that APRs do not reflect on the UP. We’ve seen our base population fluctuate drastically, especially after severe winters. Yoopers also used data submitted by QDMA that taking advanced age class bucks with larger racks does not serve to prevent the spread of disease as those found to test positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Montcalm County were at a 0.92 percent infection rate for 1.5 year old bucks, and 0.99 percent infection rate for bucks at 3.5 years old.

The QDMA resolution also singled out an over abundance of doe deer as an enhanced vector of the spread of CWD. In the UP, the base population of does is so low that only four of all the UP DMUs have been open for antlerless hunting. The resolution does not consider this region in its proposal.

The motion to approve was defeated by a 224/93. It also set the stage for another QDMA resolution that called for MUCC “to continue to support of APRs being put in place to help promote the take of does and maintaining a balanced herd.”

QDMA Resolution #4 – MUCC Working Closely with MDNR in the management of CWD, TB, and other diseases, had merit however lines within the narrative that again called for APRs were voted to be stricken, under amendment, on the same objections that defeated their first try.

These two resolutions took up the majority of debate throughout the day and is proof that the democratic process works. It was the knowledge of those from the UP with the support from Lower Peninsula conservationists regarding the negative impact a statewide implementation of APRs and lucrative antlerless (doe) deer hunting change would have that kept the best choice in conservation at the forefront. It comes from the diligent work done for three decades by UP Whitetails Association’s eight affiliate organizations and the UPSA in working closely with the MDNR on establishing real science data on appropriate management needs here in the U.P. Region.

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Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.

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