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DFW’s new deer management plan appears to be a roadmap to failure


The Department of Fish and Wildlife released its draft Deer Conservation and Management Plan for public review and comment this week. This plan is an update to the 1976 deer management plan that eventually led to the creation of all of the different deer zones statewide by the mid-1980s, the writing of 79 deer herd plans, and a steady downward decline in deer numbers in the state.

Now I’m not saying there is a correlation between the deer decline and the 1976 plan and the management changes that were implemented, but the 2015 draft just released seems to suggest that the DFW wants to step back to what the agency was doing pre-1976, with broad herd conservation units. But there are some troubling things in the plan at least for me, an old guy who remembers when California had lots of deer and the same amount of public land.

The stated goal of the 1976 plan was to restore deer herd numbers to the population highs reached in the 1960s. A lot of us thought that should be the goal – and still do. But the DFW seems resigned to the idea that can’t be done. They’ve failed at increasing deer numbers in even minute ways throughout the state, usually stifled in doing the creative habitat, predator, and people management that would be required to accomplish that task. The new plan has made a political decision right off the bat: Increasing deer numbers is not its goal. It is punting the ball. It’s giving up on trying to increase deer numbers of one of the state’s most popular species. That is my first gripe.

Second, implementing the management objectives will cost a lot more money than is spent on deer today. The only place the DFW gets deer management money is from hunters. Hunter’s license and tag fees climb every year and they are already the highest for resident hunters in the nation. Between the declining number of us (less than 250,000 now and going down annually) and the new goals, those of us who still hunt in this state are likely to see our fees go up even more – even thought that is not stated in the plan. It’s not hard to put two and two together, even with Common Core math. The plan needs to address funding that isn’t just from hunters.

Third, there’s a lot of verbiage about preserving habitat, forming partnerships with anyone and everyone, improving monitoring, and using the same types of adaptive management plans that work so well for waterfowl. It’s all blah, blah, blah. It’s the same thing that should and has been tried since the 1970s, and the simple truth is that the DFW is bad at it. If the DFW wanted to remove 40,000 acres of juniper to encourage sage brush and bitter brush growth to improve deer habitat, they couldn’t because the land management agencies wouldn’t let them. If they wanted to control burn 250,000 acres a year statewide to improve deer herds, there would be snorty laugher all around. All the lofty goals and plan outlines are cover for continued failure and a roadmap to end deer hunting in the state. The last plan was good; this plan says all the right things. It is about implementation.

I will tell you what needs to be done with the little money the DFW has for deer. First, they need to find deer herds in their 11 “conservation units” that summer, winter, and migrate on public land. A third of the state is BLM or USFS land, so they can find a few of these herds. Then they should aggressively manage those “demonstration” herds to show what real deer management looks like and can accomplish. That “outreach” needs to get federal support to allow the agency to do what is needed without roadblocks. The herds could be brought back to 1960s levels, but it would take guts to accomplish. The DFW doesn’t have the stomach for it. The new deer management plan outline is assuring the future for deer in California is grim.

For those of you who would like to read the plan on-line, it is available at this direct address on the DFW website: The deadline for comments is April 30, and you can e-mail comment to, or by regular mail can be sent to Deer Plan, 1812 Ninth St., Sacramento, CA 95811.

Elmer Keith's guns sold

for $1.9 million at auction

One of the greatest gun writers of all time, Elmer Keith, was known for magnum handgun cartridges, big bore rifles, a 10-gallon Stetson hat, and smoldering cigars. Earlies this month, 140 guns from his estate was auctioned off for an incredible $1,905,458.

The gun that brought the most money was a .450/400 double rifle acquired and used by Keith, but it was also Gentleman Jim Corbett’s tiger hunting rifle. It alone fetched $264,500.

You can read more about the guns and how much they brought at Guns & Ammo magazine’s on-line version at this link:


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