Public land antlerless permit needed for CFA land

MIBowhunter

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Public land antlerless permit needed for CFA land

By Dan Donarski
At the June meeting of the state Natural Resources Commission, two changes to this year’s deer hunting regulations were agreed upon.
The first was not exactly a surprise. How could it be?
For the past few years there has been an early season for antlerless deer in southern Menominee County. True, the season is not during the traditional time, nor a recognized formal season year in and year out, but, by and large, this early season is nothing new.
This fall, from Sept. 16-22, there will be another early antlerless deer season in Deer Management Unit 55. DMU 55 takes in much of southern Menominee County, a highly agricultural area, and one where the deer population is completely out of whack. This early season is an effort to assist local farmers in managing deer on their property.
That’s all well and good, but I’d hold back the applause just a bit.
I’d be jumping for joy if there was some provision for access to the farmland, something like if the landowner gets funding for deer damaging his crops, then he or she must allow access. Let’s say two hunters per 40 acres, place the hunters in designated areas, and hunt during designated hours. That would keep it safe and well managed. It also wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel, as this is quite similar to the process involved when you hunt waterfowl on a managed area.
In all fairness, it’s important to note that just because a landowner doesn’t give you permission to hunt, it doesn’t mean that the land is not being hunted.
In DMU 55 most of the deer are found on private lands. I hunt public land in DMU 55, and while I certainly see my fair share of deer each fall, it’s on the private land where the deer have really flourished — flourished to the point of becoming pests. When these deer are referred to as “rats with hooves,” they’ve lost, and so have we.
Getting increased access to the private lands, thereby significantly reducing the population, would help bring them back to their rightful status of game animal. It also would save money being spent for deer damage claims and may help in rejuvenating winter cover.
The second manipulation of the deer regulations also concerns antlerless deer hunting. This change revolves around hunting on properties enrolled in the Commercial Forest Act program.
Basically, CFA-enrolled lands are privately owned by corporations like Mead and Champion with holdings totaling in the thousands of acres. These landowners get major tax breaks on their property as long as the land is managed for commercial products, namely timber. The landowners also agree to allow public access for hunting and fishing without securing formal permission. If the land is enrolled, you have legal permission to hunt or fish on it.
In past years either private or public land antlerless permits could legally be used on CFA lands. This year the NRC has mandated that only public land permits for antlerless deer will be legal.
The bulk of the land enrolled in the CFA program comes in big holdings, with owners like Champion, Mead, and International Paper. These companies, while private owners, have encouraged the public to use their lands for hunting and other recreation. Many of these landowners even advertise during the deer season that the land is open to the public for hunting.
The rest of the CFA-enrolled lands are held by family forests, folks like you and I, who signed up to get the tax break, to manage the lands for timber. Depending on how much land you’ve enrolled in your family forest, you too, have agreed to allow public access.
Changing the rules of antler-less permits from either public or private to public-only at first glance would seem like a good and easy thing. As most of the land is held in huge tracts, it would seem to take the guesswork out of the equation.
Ah, but the easy answer isn’t always so benign.
Take Johnny Toast, for instance. Mr. Toast owns 80 acres of land that he’s enrolled in the CFA program. His management plan involves managing for soft woods for the pulp industry. He also has planted a few food plots for the wildlife as well. In years past Toast secured an antlerless permit, basically a guaranteed permit, by submitting his application under the private category. Toast’s two sons did the same. Every year they were successful as private land permits outnumber public land permits.
This year, however, things are different. This year, Toast, and all other private landowners with acreage enrolled in the CFA program, will be submitting applications under the public land heading. These are far from guaranteed in many areas.
The reasons for the public land permits being fewer in number are many.
Mainly it’s due to the fact that there are more deer on private land than there are on public land. This is most evident in agricultural areas on a year-round basis. During the hunting season deer also are known to escape to areas of lesser hunter density, like private lands, rather than hang out in areas where they can see more humans than, well, other deer.
So, this year, Toast and sons, along with all other CFA landowners/users, will be in the big lottery. And that easy answer becomes a bit more complex when you consider that the antlerless permits are offered due to overpopulation, habitat degradation, and other factors. It would seem that the harvest numbers will decrease with this new rule. That is, of course, unless the number of public permits is increased significantly.
The application period for public land antlerless permits ends on Aug. 1. Leftover permits will go on sale in September
 
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