SILVER CITY – Meeting for nearly nine hours last Thursday in Silver City, the State Game Commission approved new rules for elk and several other big game species, extended the popular Habitat Stamp program and voiced support for a plan to simplify hunting, fishing and trapping licenses and stamps.
Also, youth and adult hunters who missed a shot at a big-game hunting license during this year’s annual drawing will have another chance this August when the Department of Game and Fish puts more than 5,000 deer, elk and javelina licenses up for sale on the agency Web site.
Some sportsmen in Silver City may have shied away from speaking at the meeting after watching members of the commission challenge the testimony of hunters who came to the microphone.
Larry McDaniel, a Silver City veterinarian, went to the podium thinking he had three minutes to talk. Instead, his testimony was interrupted several times by Chairman Jim McClintic, his facts were disputed and his ideas were contested.
McDaniel started off his testimony in jest, saying he hadn’t drawn an elk tag in several years and that he thought his chances might improve if he moved to El Paso, Texas, and applied as a non-resident. He encouraged the commission to bring New Mexico more in line with other western states, citing our liberal nonresident quota (22 percent) as a major concern.
“But the big kahuna is the over 40 percent (of elk tags) that go to private landowners,” McDaniel said.
McClintic interrupted, saying, “That’s not an accurate number, sir.”
NMDGF Assistant Director Pat Block said 40 percent was a little high.
“I believe that’s a little bit on the high side,” Block told the commission. “When you look at the licenses (that are sold through E-PLUS), it’s about a third; when you look at the total number authorized, it does get closer to that 40 but it’s probably on the high side. Over the last 10 years, it’s never hit 40 percent, with either measure.”
The New Mexico Wildlife Federation said department figures show that E-PLUS landowners have received more than 40 percent of the licenses each of the last three years – licenses that the landowner can transfer or resell. For the 2009-10 license year, the department gave E-PLUS landowners 18,846 authorizations (45.8 percent) while putting 22,294 licenses (54.2 percent) in the Big Game Draw.
Of the 18,846 authorizations given to E-PLUS landowners, only 10,974 were used, which left 7,872 licenses unsold. That translates to lost revenue for the Department of Game and Fish and lost opportunity for New Mexico resident hunters.
After McDaniel’s testimony, which resulted in a heated argument with McClintic, McDaniel told the NMWF that he was surprised by the treatment he received and that he called Gov. Bill Richardson’s Office of Boards and Commissions to lodge a complaint against McClintic.
“I felt like I was treated rudely,” McDaniel said. “I was interrupted repeatedly. I thought it was bizarre. I was expecting them to take what I said into consideration and say, ‘OK, we’ve heard you and we’ll consider your comments.’ I was just surprised by the whole thing.”
The Commission approved several broad changes for big game rules, including extending legal hunting hours to 30 minutes after sunset, and allowing crossbows in hunts open to all other weapon types. The NMWF also commended the department for actively seeking sportsmen’s comments on the proposals and providing a 60-day comment period. The Habitat Stamp program was extended for another 10 years, and a proposal was brought forth to allow a simpler license and stamp system.
In reference to the online sales of deer, elk and javelina licenses, they will be on a first-come, first-served basis, and will be conducted in two parts on different days. The first sale will be Aug. 4 for elk licenses reserved only for youths younger than age 18. The second sale will be Aug. 11 for deer and javelina hunts available to youth and adults. Both sales will begin at 10 a.m.