The State Game and Fish Department has decided to not implement its proposal to limit deer hunters to only one license for the 2015 season.
While it is still months before the 2015 season is set, that means deer hunters will again be able to apply for deer gun and muzzleloader lottery licenses, and also purchase an archery license.
Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand said the decision involved several factors, including substantial public input both for and against the proposal, and significant costs needed to put the new system in place.
"One of our goals is to increase the deer population statewide, and we can still work toward that under the current system," Steinwand said.
Under the proposal that Game and Fish offered in early November, in 2015 deer hunters who received a lottery deer gun or muzzleloader license, or a gratis license, would not have been able to purchase an additional archery license.
Game and Fish drafted the proposal based on public input and comments following eight special deer meetings held in February 2014. The meetings were set up to encourage public input on options for changing the way deer licenses are distributed, because of a significant reduction in the state's deer population.
In 2014 Game and Fish allocated 48,000 deer gun season licenses, compared to more than 140,000 licenses as recently as 2008.
In addition, Game and Fish used the recent fall round of district advisory board meetings to further discuss the resulting proposal. "Over the past year," Steinwand said, "we've had a thorough and healthy discussion on the Department's role in providing opportunity."
For instance, in 2013 about 10,000 hunters had both gun and bow licenses, while just over 20,000 prospective hunters who applied for a gun license did not receive any type of deer license.
"This was a social issue more than it was a biological issue," Steinwand said, "but it is Game and Fish's responsibility to address how our policies and regulations affect hunters as well as wildlife. We will continue to look at all feasible alternatives for future years that will provide opportunity for the most hunters possible."