Proposed Regulation Amendment

4VAC15-90-89. Game: Deer. Earn a buck (EAB).

Summary

The proposal is to (i) restrict Earn a Buck (EAB) requirements to counties individually, (ii) add Arlington County to EAB, (iii) add Clarke, Frederick, and Warren counties and the City of Winchester to (EAB), (iv) allow deer killed on public lands in the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William (except Department of Defense lands) to count towards EAB requirements, (v) increase the number of antlerless deer required for Earn A Buck in the counties of Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William (including the newly established EAB regulation in Arlington County), and (vi) delete Franklin, Fauquier, Patrick, and Shenandoah counties from EAB.

Text of Regulation

Rationale

Restricting EAB requirements to individual counties

In fall 2008 the Department initiated an Earn a Buck (EAB) regulation in eight counties. The objective of this regulation was to increase the female deer kill in these counties to >50% of the total harvest. This regulation has been successful in meeting its management objective. However, it has been criticized for its complexity by hunters who hunt in multiple counties, especially when some counties require EAB and some do not. This complexity arises because hunters are required to harvest deer in a particular order in areas where EAB applies. When hunters harvest deer in counties where EAB does not apply, the number and sex of the deer harvested have various impacts on the order in which a hunter must harvest deer in the EAB area. As such, hunters can be easily confused by the requirements of the current language in the EAB regulation. This regulation amendment is intended to eliminate this confusion, by treating each EAB county as an individual unit. No longer will deer harvested outside of each EAB county impact the order in which deer need to be harvested in each EAB county.

Adding an EAB requirement in Arlington County

In response to a request by a Board Member, Arlington County is being added to EAB. Further, the EAB requirement for Arlington will be made consistent with the EAB requirement in the adjacent Northern Virginia counties. Prior to this change, Arlington County was not a part of the EAB program. Over the past eight deer seasons, the reported deer kill in Arlington County has ranged from 3-9 deer annually and averaged 5 deer.

Conformity with Chronic Wasting Disease management actions - EAB in Clarke, Frederick, and Warren counties and in the City of Winchester

Putting private lands in Clarke, Frederick, and Warren counties and the City of Winchester into the EAB regulation will conform this regulation to the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) management actions that have been in effect since April 2010 under the Director's authority per 4VAC15-20-220. These management actions did not require regulation changes, and changes have not been sought so that management flexibility could be maintained during the first few years following CWD detection in Virginia. However, the absence of regulations related to specific management actions has hindered prosecution of some violations of requirements. Given that the agency's deer disease management approach is not likely to change in the near future, current management actions can now be established in regulation. If necessary, modifications to management actions can be made under Director's authority between regulation cycles.

Including all lands in Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties and all lands in Prince William (except Department of Defense lands)

Previously, the EAB regulation only included deer killed on private lands in these areas. As a result of deer management programs on public lands in Fairfax County, a considerable number of deer are killed on these public lands. Many hunters in Fairfax hunt on both private and public lands creating confusion and complexity in the order in which hunters were required to harvest deer on private lands in Fairfax County. Further, with the exception of the Department of Defense (DoD), public land managers in Loudoun and Prince William counties have also expressed a desire to include their lands in the EAB requirement. This proposal would include all lands (except DoD lands in Prince William) in the EAB requirement, reducing confusion for hunters and potentially increasing the antlerless deer kill in these counties.

Expanded Earn a Buck in Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties

Under the current EAB regulation, only one antlerless deer must be harvested prior to taking a second antlered buck. Further, a second antlerless deer must be harvested prior to taking a third antlered buck. This proposal would increase the number of antlerless deer a hunter must kill by requiring two antlerless deer to be killed prior to taking a second antlered buck and a third antlerless deer to be killed prior to taking a third antlered buck. Fairfax County Animal Control instituted a similar EAB regulation on their public archery deer hunts in fall 2011 with very favorable results, achieving 65% percent female deer in their harvest the past two seasons. Additionally, several hunter surveys over the last decade - including the most recent survey in 2011-2012 - have indicated a high level of support in the Northern Virginia region for "a regulation that requires deer hunters to kill one or more antlerless deer before they could kill a 2nd antlered deer." Rationale for not requiring two antlerless deer before the third buck include: (a) either a fourth antlerless tag would have to be provided on the deer-bear-turkey license or hunters would have to use a bonus tag to use their third buck tag; and, (b) many more hunters take two bucks than three bucks in a season, so results should be similar.

Removing Franklin, Fauquier, Patrick, and Shenandoah counties from EAB

The Department's Deer Management Plan called for deer population reduction on private lands in Franklin, Fauquier, Patrick, and Shenandoah counties. Current data indicates that deer populations have demonstrated significant declines on private lands in all four counties over the past decade. Staff considers this reduction to have been adequate based on input from constituents and recommends that female deer kill pressure be reduced at this time. Staff recommends that EAB be removed from all four counties. It should also be noted that Patrick County had a significant deer kill related to Hemorrhagic Disease in fall 2012.

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