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I don't believe nearly enough light is ever shed on what our game and fish commission is up to but, being that they are supposed to represent all of us who enjoy the Mississippi outdoors, what they do is worth paying attention to.

This is my first time posting on this site and my motivation is to help bring to the attention of my fellow hunters the decisions that are made that impact the wild public resources we all enjoy.

When the game and fish commission met last month, they made what I believe is a critical mistake and changed the procedure for determining if a county should be placed under the CWD management plan. Up until last month, if a CWD positive deer was found within 10 miles of a given county, that county was placed under the CWD management plan protocols which include a supplemental feed ban. I'm not here to offer any opinions about supplemental feeding with the exception of pointing out that supplemental feeding can congregate deer in ways that most often wouldn't naturally occur. This in turn can increase the rate of spread of CWD in a deer herd or introduce CWD to an otherwise healthy deer herd. That is the biologically sound reasoning for including a supplemental feed ban within the CWD management protocol.

The commission decided that instead of using the 10 mile rule for counties that border the MS river, they will now use the Coast Guard demarcation line that maps the center of the river as the boundary that determines if a county is placed under the CWD management plan. If a CWD positive deer is found on the west side of the river, that does not place the nearest MS county under the CWD management plan. If a CWD positive deer is found on the east side of the river, then the original rules apply for placing counties under the plan.

The only way that this decision could make sense is if the MS river is a barrier to deer movement, which we know it is not. Deer are wonderful swimmers and cross the MS river all the time. I'll point out what might be the most famous buck in MS right now, buck 140 as MS State University refers to it. Buck 140 has been tracked via GPS collar for the last two years until his collar fell off last month. During those two years that buck swam across the MS river four times. He spent his summers in Louisiana and his winters in Mississippi with 18 miles separating his summer and winter homes. Last week Trevor Martin shot the buck not far from where it was originally captured and congrats to Trevor on a great buck.

To imagine that buck 140 is the only deer crossing the MS river is ridiculous. Consequently, to imagine that the MS river is a barrier to deer movement is ridiculous. So why would the commission make this rule change that resulted in Claiborne County being removed from the CWD management plan? To put it bluntly...money talks and the supplemental feed industry is a big one. I don't mean to suggest that supplemental feed is bad or the industry is bad, but when we have a potential threat like CWD to a finite public resource like deer and we have the opportunity to make decisions to cautiously protect that resource, are we really going to be okay with throwing caution to the wind for a dollar? Not to mention that if CWD were to take a greater hold in our state than it has so far, our supplemental feed industry is screwed anyway.

So I have no idea what good it will do to talk about these topics on platforms like this but I hope that someone finds it valuable. I'd also not like to look back in a few years and wish I hadn't kept my mouth shut. If anyone has an opinion on the topic, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Nobody loves these deer and these wild places more than us hunters and we need to act like it by holding our representatives accountable when they try to make decisions like this without any of our input.
 

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I'd like to point out just to be fair that commissioner Billy Mounger voted against this change and was the only one who made his decision based on science and the recommendations of wildlife biologists.
 

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You can watch the commission meetings on YouTube....I highly recommend it...
It's painful to watch but I've been watching. I feel more annoyed every time I watch one but these are the people that make decisions that impact us so I hold my nose and watch. They conveniently did not stream the January 19, 2022 meeting on Youtube...which was the meeting where high fence owner Billy Deviney presented a letter to the commission to be sent to the Attorney General. That letter was was a request for the AG's opinion on whether or not the commission has the authority to authorize the selling and purchasing of whitetail deer between these high fence owners. The AG offered her opinion believing that the commission does have such authority... something the commission would've liked to kept out of the public eye. That info was made public and Ricky Matthews has spoke about it multiple times now on SuperTalk Outdoors. Needless to say if something like that we're allowed it would, at best, be a gross violation of the notion that 'the game belongs to the people'. We'll see if it comes up in the January 25th meeting.
 

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I worked with the legislature (and to a lessor degree) the Commission. The later I could never establish any degree of working relation as the political liaison with the Mississippi Bowhunters Association. It always irked me when people said that the legislature should get out of the season setting business and it leave it to the professionals at the MDWFP. The 'irk' was that there was no such thing as "professionals" at the MDWFP when it came to the decision making process. The five member commission are appointed business owners without biological credentials who are used to making decisions without question of their authority. They are appointed by the governor more likely because of who they know or significant campaign donations to the winning governors campaign. It all drips with the same political overtures of the legislative process with one notable exception...the legislators hear from their electors every four years and are held accountable....the Commission works without fear of consequences..

Commissioners by the historical standard are white middle aged multi-millionaire business owners. Their expertise is that of managing the dollar to the success of their businesses. To avoid public scrutiny, they have a close door working session THE NIGHT BEFORE THE PUBLIC MEETING to insure no there is no discourse at the meeting. Almost all Commission votes are unanimous except for rare instances, To see one Commissioner break ranks shows some credibility in the process. This dollar managing background all but insures when two solutions to a biological need are evident; they always pick the one that makes money.

The fact that the Commission (given their background) has a hard time connecting with the wants, needs, and desires of the common sportsman is well known throughout the legislature. One solution that was often talked about in the past was to expand the Commission to 9 members with the four extra members coming from the various sportsman groups on a rotating basis. That way bowhunters, dog hunters, bass fisherman, still hunters etc, etc would get to express their concerns before the actual public meetings in the working sessions and have a vote. I guess that all made too much sense.

On a positive note, the new executive director, Lynn Posey, is as good a fellow as could have been appointed to head the actual workings of the agency. I worked with him for years in the legislature and his word was his bond. He never lied and always sought to hear from all those effected. We are very fortunate to have him. Its just a shame he is the executive director and not the Chairman of the Commission.
 

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Putting people in charge who have no idea what’s going on is never a good thing. I spent over 20 years in the military and I saw it all the time. It’s even worse when those in charge don’t care to listen to those who have invaluable knowledge of the matters at hand. It’s the way of the world it seems..
 

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On a positive note, the new executive director, Lynn Posey, is as good a fellow as could have been appointed to head the actual workings of the agency. I worked with him for years in the legislature and his word was his bond. He never lied and always sought to hear from all those effected. We are very fortunate to have him. Its just a shame he is the executive director and not the Chairman of the Commission.
When Dr. Polles retired and the makeup of the Commission changed, so changed the balance of power. It would appear the tail is now wagging the dog.

I will be quite surprised if a few things don't happen in the very near future:

1. The Commission will approve the private sale of whitetail deer between deer pen owners.

The Commission asked for and received an AG Opinion advising that the Commission "may promulgate a regulation allowing the commercial trade of white-tailed deer held within high-fenced enclosures between white-tailed deer captive breeders." You can view the opinion here: https://www.ago.state.ms.us/wp-cont...ding-Commercial-Trade-of-White-Tailed-Dee.pdf

The AG Opinion does not reference the Public Trust Doctrine or the 2013 Peer Review Report from the MS Legislature which found "The department’s regulations and practices regarding privately owned enclosures for white-tailed deer are not authorized by statute and PEER believes that permitting such enclosures is not in keeping with the Public Trust Doctrine."
The PEER report can be viewed here: https://www.peer.ms.gov/Reports/reports/rpt570.pdf

2.The Commission will drastically change, if not eliminate, CWD restrictions/zones.

See the November meeting and begin at about the 30:00 minute mark:

At 31:43 Commissioner Benz makes comments about having an issue with "the whole zone thing" in general and it being a problem for another day. Based on previous meetings, there are others on the Commission with similar thoughts.

3. The Commission will relax laws regarding baiting wild turkeys.

Watch the September Commission meeting at minutes 11:30 to 15:45.
The Chairman's solution to an old fella with neighbors feeding turkeys is that the old fella should start feeding too.
 

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It just goes to show you that much power given to 5 people without biological credentials (only three of which are needed to pass regulation)....can start to be abused.

The entire Commission approach is in desperate need for an over haul. I've often thought what might happen if we ever elect a closet anti-hunter to Governor. Those Commission picks could go from really bad...to really, really, really bad.

Good post Randy!
 
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