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MCLB Albany wraps up successful bow-hunting season

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | | January 26, 2012

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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany’s bow hunting season has ended with no hunting accidents while the management of the doe-to-buck ratio continues.

Archers hunted about 1,100 acres of land aboard the base during the hunting season, which began Sept. 15, 2011, and ended Jan. 15.

There were 116 registered hunters who logged in nearly 8,000 hunting hours throughout the 153-day season, according to Al Belanger, game warden, Environmental Branch, Installation and Environment Division, MCLB Albany.

When the season began, base officials decided on a split hunting season where eight bucks would be taken during the first half and eight in the next with a two-week break in the middle. However, this year, the seasons ran continuously because of the drought and the base’s annual tree harvest, according to Belanger.

This year’s harvest quota was 49 does and 16 bucks.

“Although there were some very good semi-mature to mature deer harvested from the base this year, we did not meet our harvest quota,” Belanger said. “There were 40 does and 11 bucks harvested during the hunting season.

“Overall, as deer management is concerned, I would consider this a successful year,” he added. “Our goal is get it to a 2-to-1 doe-to-buck ratio. It is going to take some time, but we are going to get there.”

Eleven bucks with eight points or more were downed this season. Belanger said the average weight for a buck taken was 158 pounds with an average, inside antler spread of 14.75 inches. The average weight for the does harvested was 89.6 pounds.

Lt. Col. Dan Sullivan took the first deer of the season on Oct. 3, 2011, a 115-pound doe, while Charles Booth harvested the largest doe of the season, on Sept. 9, 2011, weighing 124 pounds. Matthew Carlstron harvested the heaviest buck of the season, Oct. 10, 2011, weighing 200 pounds.

Jack Arnett downed an 8-point buck, Nov. 15, 2011, which scored a 135 class in the Pope and Young classification. The Pope and Young is a universally-accepted scoring system, which sets the standards for measuring and scoring North American big game for archery. There were three other bucks that also scored in this division.

“I was very fortunate to harvest a good buck on base this year that gross scored 135 and should still net more than the 125 Pope and Young minimum after the mandatory drying period,” Arnett said, who has been hunting for nearly 30 years. “I have come very close several times before, but this is my first buck that will net a score high enough for classification.”

Arnett transitioned to bow hunting only a few years ago.

“A Pope and Young record book deer was a big personal goal of mine and to finally achieve it feels great,” he said. “The opportunity to harvest this class of whitetail though is a really great testament to the quality of the hunting program and the natural resource management on this base.”

“Harvesting Pope and Young bucks shows sound game management practices are being met and hunters with good hunting skills are able to judge the age of the deer and are taking mature deer,” Belanger said.

For Col. Brent P. Goddard, chief of staff, Marine Corps Logistics Command, this was his first year hunting aboard the base.

We have one of the best hunting programs I have seen and I think we are on par with the other installations,” Goddard said, who has been an avid hunter for more than 40 years. “This is one of our premier recreational activities.”

Goddard and his son, Jonathan, each harvested a doe to help with the game management. “After harvesting the does, we went for the big bucks, but did not have any come within shooting range,” he said. “We saw a lot of deer, but it was fun just being outdoors.” Goddard, whose passion is hunting, said safety is paramount.

“The number one objective of the program is safety and we meet that across the board, whether it is hunters in tree stands, marksmanship or the check-in and check-out for accountability,” he said. “I know a lot of people, who are non-hunters, sometimes wonder if hunting is dangerous. I think this is one of the safest places to go hunting.” Goddard said this is a great place to start for those who have an interest in hunting and there were several first-time hunters this season.

Lt. Col. Dan Sullivan, deputy director, Logistics Services Management Center, MCLC, had a unique opportunity to harvest a wild hog, an invasive species uncommon to MCLB Albany.

The sow weighed 268 pounds and is the largest hog taken aboard the base to date. Sullivan also harvested a doe.

Belanger said the hunting hours exceeded most Marine Corps installations on the East Coast.

“The number of hunting hours this year was phenomenal,” the game warden said. “We came close to exceeding Marine Corps Base Camp Lejuene, North Carolina, which has at least 10 times the amount of land for bow hunting.”

He also said considering the number of hunters this year and the amount of land available, if this was a hunting preserve, there wouldn’t have been more than 10 people hunting.

At other commercial plantations, it would cost $800 to $1,500 for a similar hunting experience. It costs $20 to register for deer hunting on base, he added.

Belanger attributes the success of the deer season to two things; archery qualifications conducted in early July, and the assistance of Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologists.

Per Base Order 1720.17Q, hunters are restricted to only using a bow aboard the base when hunting deer and other types of game.

Archers were allowed to hunt seven days a week during the hunting season.

Before the season began, hunters had to qualify with their bows at the Base Archery Range, attend a mandatory safety brief and have their hunting equipment inspected.

The qualification course requires archers to demonstrate they can hit a 3-D deer target at three different distances, which are typically, 20, 30 and 40 yards from an elevated stand.

“The purpose of the course is to test the accuracy and skills of each hunter before they are allowed to hunt,” Belanger said. “It also ensures the hunters’ equipment is safe and they are proficient with the bow. This greatly increases their ability to harvest an animal as humanely as possible.”

In addition, two Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologists contributed to the successful deer season this year.

The biologists also provided a slide show of actual field photos of deer to help the hunters identify the difference between young bucks and does and how to age deer by their physical characteristics.

The DNR provides an outside professional look at MCLB Albany’s best management practices for wildlife management, according to the game warden.

“The biologists helped conduct the annual deer census aboard the base, which is a very important tool used to determine the deer population,” Belanger said.

“The census is critical for best management practices in determining the population and the doe-to-buck ratio,” he added. “The data collected is essential in establishing the harvest quota for the 2011-2012 hunting season and making sure we do not over-harvest the deer.”

The deer census showed a doe-to-buck ratio was 9-to-1 at the beginning of the season. This is a higher ratio for proper herd management and population. The goal is a 2-to-1 ratio.

Plans have been made to update the Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan during fiscal year 2012, according Brian Wallace, branch head, Environmental Branch, Installation and Environment Division, MCLB Albany.

“The INRMP is a detailed, five-year plan on how to best manage our natural resources, which includes wildlife, forestry, plants and lakes,” Wallace said. “As part of the update, we will be adding a Quality Deer Management Program that will provide a plan to ensure we have a healthy, properly-sized deer population.”

“It will also provide guidance on safe and ethical hunting, managing food habitats, harvesting recommendations, stewardship and appreciation of all wildlife and hunter involvement in education and management,” Wallace added.

For more deer hunting details, call (299) 639-5188.


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