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Local seminar explains new mandatory Game Check System

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries director Chuck Sykes detailed the state’s new mandatory Game Check system to a crowd of hunters at Beeland Recreational Center Thursday evening.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries director Chuck Sykes detailed the state’s new mandatory Game Check system to a crowd of hunters at Beeland Recreational Center Thursday evening.

As of Tuesday, Alabama is no longer in the extreme minority of states that don’t implement a mandatory game check program.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries director Chuck Sykes has been touring the state in an effort to inform local hunters of how the changes will impact their impending hunting season.

Sykes detailed the process of checking game, why the data is important to both the organization and hunters alike, and what it will mean for hunters moving forward.  Sykes also detailed a number of changes to the upcoming hunting season.

But he began by emphasizing the reason why the Conservation Advisory Board passed the new game check system unanimously, and the answer was simple—the old voluntary system simply wasn’t working.

The Game Check system was first implemented three years ago on a voluntary basis, though the number of hunters who reported their harvest via the Game Check system was less than 5 percent during that time frame.

The Game Check system was first implemented three years ago on a voluntary basis, though the number of hunters who reported their harvest via the Game Check system was less than 5 percent during that time frame.

“We tried voluntary reporting for three years and it didn’t work,” Sykes said. “There were 19,000 deer reported in 2013 and only 15,000 last year.”

Estimates from sampling and mail surveys indicate about 300,000 deer are harvested annually in Alabama.

But Skykes warned against the folly of basing a $2 billion industry in Alabama on an educated guess.

“That’s our guess,” Sykes said of the harvest estimate. “We need to know. It’s too important an industry to the state ($1.8 billion economic impact), and it’s too important to the way of life to many people, including me, for us to base everything on a guess.”

Sykes added that the actual game check process would take under two minutes, courtesy of the Outdoor Alabama App for smartphones.  Additionally, reporting one’s harvest is possible via tablet, laptop or desktop computer at www.outdooralabama.com.  Lastly, Sykes said that that calling 1-800-888-7690 to report over the phone was the least-efficient and least-reliable method.

All hunters have to report, including licensed and exempt hunters (residents hunting on their own land, residents over 64 and anyone under 16, and hunters will have to utilize a license number to access the system, though the six-digit license number would be much easier to remember than the 16-digit or 10-digit annual and lifetime license numbers.

Sykes also discussed a number of benefits for implementing the system, including yielding accurate and up-to-date information on various game populations around the state on a county-by-county basis.

Sykes, as well as FWW Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr., also discussed the growing threat of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and the dangers of carrying deer across state lines without following the proper protocol.

Though the disease hasn’t reached Alabama, it has spread as far south as Arkansas, and the incurable threat could permanently impact hunters’ way of life.

Sykes ended by reiterating the importance of the game check system for hunters, land owners and all enthusiasts tangentially related to the sport.

“For years, it’s been ‘come, one, come all to Alabama and rape and pillage, and then go back to your state and do the right thing,’” Sykes said.

“I’m a land owner.  I deserve better than that.  I think most of the folks that come to these seminars believe that, too.  We shouldn’t have to do that.”