The National Deer Association (NDA) recently submitted comments to the Virginia Board of Wildlife Resources (Board) regarding the Board’s proposed changes to the Commonwealth’s deer hunting regulations to help address chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Virginia. Our full comments can be seen here, but some highlights on the changes and the NDA’s positions are below.
The Board and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) proposed season changes intended to reduce deer density in specific Disease Management Areas (DMAs) and disease focus zones (DFZs) and keep disease prevalence rates low. The NDA supports the majority of the proposed changes to increase harvest of primarily antlerless deer in certain counties in DMAs 2 and 3 and in designated disease focus zone(s) in Carroll County, and we support their efforts to increase testing and surveillance in DMAs, DFZs and surrounding areas.
Specifically, the proposals:
- Establish September early antlerless seasons in Page and Carrol Counties;
- Allow full season either-sex deer hunting on private lands in Page County during the early and late muzzleloader seasons;
- Extend the firearms deer season from two to four weeks on private lands in Carroll County; and
- Establish January through March late antlerless only deer seasons in multiple DMA2 and DMA3 counties.
The NDA supports the proposed September early antlerless seasons in Page and Carrol Counties. This added opportunity in Page County brings regulations more in-line with other DMA2 Counties, and the addition in Carroll County should aid the DWR in determining disease prevalence near recent detections and slowing further spread. We also support the proposal to allow full season either-sex deer hunting on private lands in Page County during the early and late muzzleloader seasons. In addition to aligning regulations among counties and increasing disease sampling, this proposal tackles an important aspect of CWD management: harvest more deer, and specifically, more antlerless deer. Similarly, we support the proposal to extend the firearms deer season from two to four weeks on private lands in Carroll County. This move would provide consistent general firearms seasons in all DMA3 counties, streamlining hunting regulations for those counties and minimizing confusion for hunters. We do note, however, that hunter support for this proposal is crucial to its success.
Finally, we have concerns about the proposed January through March late antlerless only deer seasons in multiple counties. Late antlerless-only seasons can be ineffective at increasing harvest to desired levels due to a lack of hunter participation. Additionally, the risk of shooting bucks that have shed their antlers is greatly increased, and overall hunter support can vary greatly. Certainly, increasing antlerless harvest in disease zones is necessary, but late seasons are often counterproductive to this goal unless accompanied with a strong educational campaign from the state wildlife agency. If harvest levels in existing counties with late antlerless only deer seasons are near objective, and if hunter support and appropriate education and outreach for these seasons exists, we would support the proposals to implement late antlerless seasons in other counties.
Comments on the CWD proposals will be accepted online through May 2, 2022. Comments also may be: made during the May Committee and Board meetings; postal-mailed to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, Attn: Policy Analyst and Regulatory Coordinator, P.O. Box 90778, Henrico, Virginia 23228; or emailed to RegComments@dwr.virginia.gov. Comments must be in writing and accompanied by the name, address and telephone number of the party offering them.