I'm not sure I could have planned a storyline any better for my Wildlife Ecology and Management course. But, the Nebraska legislature and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) have been very helpful, with regards to supplying teaching material!
In January, a Nebraska Senator surprised everyone by submitting a bill for consideration, which (had it been enacted) would have turned wildlife management on its head. The bill, among other things, would have allowed landowners to harvest unlimited numbers of deer at any time of year. It would have even allowed the use of spotlights at night.
Deer hunters were up in arms. The NGPC was taken by surprise (the Senator had not consulted them before submitting the bill). Some landowners were cheering. It may be interested for you to read the comments below this Lincoln Journal-Star story about the bill.
So, as things usually go, a compromise was reached. The bill is still 'active' in the legislature, but is not a priority bill for its creator. But, it now has NGPC support. It would allow lower fees for permits during special depredation seasons. Landowners would be able to obtain limitless antlerless permits during depredation seasons. Revenue from these permits would go towards deer damage management, working through NGPC.
Indeed, it may not matter what the NE legislature does. NGPC has announced a major shift in their deer harvest regulations for the 2010 hunting season. Traditionally, the early fall hunts were reserved for bow hunters, who have a strong lobby. But, bow hunters are not taking enough deer, and NGPC will institute (if approved) an October antlerless season (rifles will be allowed). Permits, normally costing $30, will cost $10. And, in two management units, hunters of bucks during the regular season will be required to 'earn-a-buck' by shooting a doe before they can shoot a buck.
All of these management tools are aimed at reducing the reproductive engines of the deer population...the does.
It's been a very instructive series of events for my students. NGPC biologists were pushed a bit faster (by public opinion surrounding the bill) to adopt some fairly liberal harvest regulations for deer, which many felt had been needed for a long time. At the core of the decisions are private land issues the always pervade these discussions...a public resource (deer) causing trouble on privately owned land. It won't be the last time that such an issue makes news in Nebraska!