Then they fall silent.
Alabama has a voluntary reporting system that asks hunters to report the deer they kill, along with the size and gender of the deer. Biologists need this information to determine the size and health of the state’s herd and manage it accordingly.
This deer season, hunters reported killing more than 18,501 statewide. Compare that to the biologists’ estimate that last year about 260,000 were actually killed. In other words, only about 3 percent to 4 percent of kills were reported.
It’s not clear why hunters comply, because those who don’t are not likely to reveal the source of their reluctance. However, there are possibilities.
Perhaps hunters fear that the bag limit will be reduced if biologists feel too many deer are being killed. Or perhaps it is just too much trouble to use the automated telephone system, smartphone app or website to report a kill. Or maybe hunters feel that if reporting is not required, it must not be very important. Why take the time?
This year, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is considering making reporting required. When it tried before, opponents in the state Legislature blocked the rule over concerns for fines and the technology that would be used to determine who kills what, when and where. Those concerns remain, but state wildlife managers in the meantime lack the information to carry out programs that will assure hunters there will be deer in the future.
It was in the hunters’ interest to make the voluntary reporting plan work. If making reporting a requirement fails to pass, hunters must help wildlife managers make volunteer reporting succeed.