American Bear Foundation - Virginia Chapter

Show Notes

Preserving our right to hunt; our way of life has become a consistent fight throughout America. The American Bear Foundation stands at the gate helping us on all fronts. Sean Clarkson is the president of the Virginia Chapter. Born and raised in Virginia, and an avid hunter, Sean believes bears are the premier big game animal in VA. Heath and Sean talk about what’s going on in Virginia. 

  • What is the American Bear Foundation
  • How did Sean become chapter president
  • Where they stand on the right to retrieve
  • Discuss the Ad Hoc Committee
  • Stakeholder Advisory Committee
  • Bear Management Plan
  • Manage

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Show Transcript

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Guys, this is a topic that, [00:02:00] um, it never seems to be an ending topic. Uh, we go, I travel to meetings throughout the year. I go to different organizations. I try to learn as much as I can about what I'm passionate about, which is bear hunting. And I'm a member of several different organizations. And there's a different perspective out there.

So we are going to try to educate ourselves and especially you guys in Virginia. This is a podcast that you want to listen to. You want to listen to it when there's no distractions. You want to re listen to it because we're going to give you some really good information. We're going to get into some details.

We're going to get into, um, some things that are going on here in Virginia, especially. With the bear population, the right to retrieve, the, the committees that are going on. Um, it's going to, it's going to be loaded with [00:03:00] information, but how are we getting this information? So I have got on Mr. Sean Clarkston.

He is the president of the American Bear Foundation, the Virginia chapter. Let's just set that out there because there is a national chapter and I'll let Sean talk about all that. But I have been attending some meetings with these guys. I'm trying to get myself more involved. I know we talked about that last year when Chris and I had the podcast on the mange that completely got blowed out of proportion.

And just so I can reiterate that, that everything that we said on that podcast was read off a brochure that we obtained. Um, from another organization who handed them out just so we're clear on that. So that's kind of come and gone and we're into a, to a new year and then some new stuff. So Sean, how are you this evening?

I appreciate you [00:04:00] coming on and spending your, your evening, um, kind of set us straight and get us pointed in the right direction. Um, you and I have talked numerous times over at least the last six months. Um, and. Let's, let's just get this rolling. How's things up your way today? Hot, really nasty, hot. It should not be this hot in September, man.

Come on. You know, it does this because we bring squirrel season in, in the first weekend of September. If we move squirrel season to August, I think we can get the hot out of the way in August and be done with it. I was out with the squirrel dog this morning. And by 10 o'clock, he's just giving me that look like there's nothing out here except mosquitoes and heat.

Can we be done? And, and, and he was smarter than I was. So, uh, we decided, we decided he was, uh, he was right and I'd drive us home. Yeah, we, um, I actually hunted this morning and [00:05:00] thank the Lord that. You know, we were able to get on a bear, get one trade and be back at the truck before nine 30 ish, somewhere between nine and nine 30.

And it was already hot. I was drenched, I mean, drenched. Um, just from walking in to the tree and back, which, you know, it was right at a mile both ways. So I walked a little two miles to get into them, but yeah, I don't, I, I need it to cool down. Like it's fat boys struggling. It ain't just fat boys. It's just, I mean, this is just, this weather's just nasty.

I mean, it's just, it's time for it to be done. We've had three months of hot weather time for fall. Come on. That's right. All you summer lovers, all you beach goers. Um, we, we need all the sand they need, we're done. That's right. We need, we need to get into hunting season. So we need it to cool off. Yeah. Yeah.

I already seeing signs of, uh, signs of deer getting hard horn rubbing things. Um, [00:06:00] bear started to shift to the fall food sources. Hyperphagia is kicking in. Fall bird migrations are coming through everything except the temperature says it's fall. Let's go. Yeah. All right, well, Sean, go ahead and introduce yourself, um, and introduce the American bear foundation on, you know, who, when, what, where, why it's in place.

All right. Well, I will say after that lead in about, you know, filling everybody full of information and setting everything straight, I'm like, well, now I've got it now, I've got to like, try to reach that bar that he just sent for me. Uh, The American Bear Foundation was originally formed out west, um, around the greater Yellowstone region, um, initially to deal with grizzly bear reintroduction, um, and repopulation of grizzlies.

And very quickly, it shifted from that to the Western Bear Foundation, dealing with grizzlies, yes, but [00:07:00] also realizing that out west, grizzlies just soak up all the money, and there's no money at all to deal with black bears. Um, for example, state of Wyoming, where American Bear Foundation is, is based. Is just now doing its first ever black bear management plan and population assessment simply because grizzly soak up all the money.

Um, so the American, then the Western Bear Foundation started focusing on black bear hunting, um, and black bear management. From there, several of us that are based here in Virginia, um, Condellis, who's head of Western, then Western Bear Foundation about. What was going on here in the East and after about a year, 18 months of conversations, it was clear that, that we had the same objectives in mind, which was to improve black bear conservation, black bear management, to represent all bear hunters.

Um, and that we were dealing with some of the same things here in the East that they were dealing with in the [00:08:00] West. We had some concerns here, like mange, that they want to try to get on top of. Here so that it doesn't get there. Um, and so Joe and the National Board shifted the name from the Western Bear Foundation to American Bear Foundation and Virginia became the first chapter outside of the Greater Yellowstone.

Um, what we do from a national perspective and what we do here in Virginia is that we represent all bear hunters. It doesn't matter whether you run dogs. Whether you bowhunt, use a muzzleloader, rifle, I mean, if they came out with a rock season and somebody wanted to try to chase one with a rock, we'd recommend them to, uh, because our idea is that if we get all bear hunters working together, we can actually achieve more than being fractured and splintered between, well, you, you run dogs and I only bowhunter.

You know, this person bowhunts, but they don't, they don't, you know, they don't hunt with a rifle or they don't use hounds. All that's [00:09:00] done, um, is really just divide us amongst ourselves to where we're, we spend too much of our own energy fighting on about who is or who isn't a bear hunter and not enough time focused on, okay, what's the bear population like, what's the bear management plan look like, what's, what's the problems facing bear hunters, um, and so as a combined group that, that represents all bear hunters, we think we can better represent bear hunting and bear management.

Okay. We have the ability to lean on the American Bear Foundation Science Advisory Council, which is made up of a number of the top bear managers and bear scientists across the country. So when we do something like submit written comments on the Virginia Draft Black Bear Management Plan, That's not just something that comes out of my head or somebody else's head on a chapter board.

We're bouncing that off of the top bear scientists and bear managers across the country and getting their take from a scientific and professional standpoint about [00:10:00] where the problems might be or where, uh, and not necessarily problems, but where Virginia might be able to improve the management for all bear hunting.

Yep. So is Virginia the only... External chapter, I guess that's what you would call it. Like how many state chapters are there? Uh, the, the core of the Western, excuse me, the core of the American bear foundation is still centered around, um, the greater Yellowstone area with Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, having a lot of members there.

Um, Virginia is one of the larger. One of the larger populations of members and we're growing very rapidly. We recently added Washington State, which if anybody's paying attention to bear hunting, Washington State is a hotbed for what's going to happen across the country with bear hunting. Uh, Washington State and California, another hotbed.

Um, so we're, I'd say, I would say we're bi-coastal at this point. We're looking at and having conversations with folks in a couple of [00:11:00] other Eastern states, but Virginia right now is the only Eastern chapter. Okay. Well, good. Well, I mean, and how many states actually Hound Hunt? Is it 17? Yeah, I think that's correct.

Yeah, I think that's correct. Don't, don't quote us on that, but that's gonna be close. It's, it's gonna be in that ballpark and it's. That number is always subject to change and not in a good way. Um, as we know, hunting bears in general is under attack. Um, we can look at the comments that were filed for the Virginia Draft Black Bear Management Plan by the Humane Society of the U.

S. and take a look at the two areas that they targeted specifically as being what they claim are unethical and inhumane. The use of dogs. And bowhunting. The two most common ways to do it. If you want to talk about two groups that generally don't see eye to eye, that's it. [00:12:00] But they're on the, they're sitting there with crosshairs on them from the lead anti hunting groups in the U.

S. And I think that should tell us all why we need to start working together as opposed to trying to figure out, well, do we really represent bow hunters or we only represent houndsmen or we only represent bow hunters? That, that time is long past. We need to start working together. Yeah. You know, and you know, my, as we get older or as we get experience or as life changes, you know, we change the way we see things and our thoughts and, You know, I have definitely changed my view on things.

Um, and I feel like I would never, I have no interest in killing a bear any other way than with a dog. Although, I don't really care to kill a bear with a dog anyway. But, you know, if a bow hunter puts his time in, and, I mean, archery was one of the things that I [00:13:00] really had loved before I got into hounds.

You know, I owned a bow shop. That was something that... I mean, I, I love to stalk and hunt with a bow. I never, I have never, ever to this day, knock on wood, have killed a deer out of a tree stand ever, never, ever. It's always been from the ground, but you know, you have to respect the bow hunters that, you know, put the time in, you know, that are doing, doing the work, you know, and if they get to kill a nice mature bear.

Like kudos to them. That's how I feel about it. Now. I don't know that I would have said that 10 15 years ago but I definitely Um respect that Now for sure Well, um, if you look over my shoulder, you'll see the seasoned slam for Virginia. It's the only seasoned slam I've ever gotten. Um, normally it's that bird.

That's not much on turkeys as one of my uncles would say, and I'll [00:14:00] clean it up. Some, I don't hunt turkeys. I shoot turkeys. Um, and it's just, that's not my thing, but that bear, um, that bear skull back there was a, is a bear that I hunted with a bow. Um, and I was told after I hunted that bear for four days on a hickory flat, found fresh sign, hot sign, I mean, it was clear there was a bear feeding in that hickory flat.

There was no question it looked like a cattle pasture. Um, after I hunted it for four days and took that bear, I was told, um, I was told, well, you can't actually hunt a bear like that. You can't pattern a bear. Well, you didn't actually kill that bear. You were, you were deer hunting. And just shot that bear on accident.

I'm thinking to myself, that's funny because I remember passing on a bunch of deer that walked right under me that could have been very, very dead very quickly. Um, but I was after the bear and, and that just kind of stuck in my craw. Um, and, and that's been the kind of the that was, that was kind of a driving [00:15:00] force for several of us that formed the Virginia chapter of the American Bear Foundation of hearing, well you didn't actually do that.

Well you One of our, one of our founding board members is a, is a young lady that I respect greatly. Um, she's taking two bears now behind dogs, um, with her daughter in tow the second time. And she's done it on foot. No riding around the truck. No trying to hit them off. You know, she's following the dogs up and down the mountains, took the bear, packed it out on her back both times.

But because the gentleman that she went with actually guides hunters, although she was a member of the same church, let's put it that way, so there wasn't exactly any money exchanged. Um, she was told, you might as well have just gone to Walmart and bought that bear, you didn't actually hunt it. And so those types of things aren't doing us any good.

Um, and as far as bear hunters go. We need to do all we can to build our ranks, to bring other [00:16:00] people in, and, and, you know, if you're a houndsman, if you run dogs and chase bears, the best thing you can do, from our opinion. Is find that bowhunter or find that quote unquote stump hunter that's never done it and said, Hey, come with me.

Let's go. I want to show you what this is like. Or if you're a houndsman that's never bowhunted with one for one, you know, try to figure out what it's like to pattern one and try to figure out to read the sign and get on it. Even if you've already taken a bear that year, get up there with a camera or get up there while you're deer hunting.

You still got a deer tag. You can still do everything except pull the trigger on that bear and figure out exactly what it's like for those other fellows or those other ladies to do it. And I think if we do that, the more we do that, the more we're going to start seeing eye to eye and the better we're going to be able to work together.

Yeah, I would agree. And I think it, um, Chris dropped a podcast, uh, with the, um, the president or CEO of the deer association. Um, and you know, you said it earlier, [00:17:00] just a few minutes ago that if we all don't start coming together, we're not going to have anything to fuss about because it's not going to be here.

And you know, I, I know that, you know, the 30 years that I've hunted, it has changed drastically. Um, and we're going to get into some of that here in a little bit too, but, um, you know, I want to be able to chase my dogs around. Um, He's old trashy mutts around until I just can't do it no more. Like, that's what I want to do.

And, you know, I, I hope I have about 20 good more years in me, but I don't know that I will, but that's what I want to do. And I don't want somebody to take it away from me. So, um, that, that's been a lot of my, my mentality and my vision changing is that, you know, we're all in this together, whether we want to say we are, or we're not, yep.

Yep. I mean, and, and you know, Haman, I've, I've heard Haman say this for a number of years, and they're right that they're the low hanging fruit or [00:18:00] one of 'em mm-hmm. . Um, frankly, I think trappers are the low hanging fruit. We always see trappers be the first one that H s U Ss and the other anti hunters go after first.

Uh, but Haman are certainly down there on, on a low branch as well. But we're all on the same tree, you know, and if they pull, I was around, you know, late 80s, early 90s when HSUS and PETA put the crosshairs on bowhunting and man, they tried to ban bowhunting nationwide because, oh, bowhunting was cruel and inhumane and there's too many losses and this, that, the other.

Well, they lost, uh, but they didn't forget, and we can read their comments and know where they're going, and the end result is they're coming after all of us, and if we don't all start working together and figure out why we need each other, and especially for bear hunters, and I think that's something that the Virginia chapter has done a really good job of, um, when we, when we speak on bear management and on bear hunting.

Especially right now regarding the use of dogs, and I'll say dogs because there's a bunch of guys that are using things [00:19:00] that aren't hounds. Um, you know, our good friend, uh, Alex Karashev is running Western Siberian Lakers. There's a couple of folks out there. Vice cur mixes that some folks don't consider to be hounds and others do.

I mean, it don't matter if you're running a chihuahua that a trio bear or Great Dane, that's a dog and you're covered under the same laws and rules that cover plots and red bones. I'll even say blue ticks if they catch up fast enough. Um, but, uh, you know, We're all in this together, and by being able to bring folks in and talk about bear management, one of the things that we consistently stress is that we cannot manage bear in the state of Virginia without the use of dogs.

We just can't. Um, even though DWR in their most recent draft management plan says only 29. 7 percent of all bear hunters use dogs and firearms. That's a percentage we disagree with, um. Highly disagree. [00:20:00] And, well, I think it was a good initial question, but I don't think there was enough follow up questions made.

Um, and we're pushing them on that, and I think we'll get some clarity eventually and probably get some modifications to that numbers. But even though they only say that less than 30 percent use dogs with firearms, we take about 60 percent of all the bear in Virginia every year with the use of dogs. And we can't manage the population without that.

So being able to manage bear with dogs impacts the quote unquote stump hunter. It impacts the bow hunter. It impacts everybody. Because if the population becomes unmanageable, well, then we've got a problem. Then you get overpopulation issues. Then you get, you get everything that comes from that. You get everything that we don't want.

Um, you get everything from increased push for more kill tags or. More auto vehicle accidents and all the rest of the stuff that none of us want. So as hunters, we owe [00:21:00] it to ourselves to figure out how to work with other hunters to better manage the species. And right now, the best tool that we have in Virginia is the use of dogs.

Yeah. And that's kind of that. I mean, is that a scientific, um, answer or is that a, just a realistic answer? Can we float on the scientific side of that? Meaning, meaning what? Well, like it's a proven fact. I mean, we can all, all hound hunters can say, yeah, I mean, we've got the best tool there is. And yeah, we feel like that.

Um, and I feel like that my dogs, I can individually target one bear. I can, I mean, I can do things that maybe some others can't do. We know the tree and furry. I mean, we know that we can go in and. Size of bear up and, you know, find, you know, just determine whether it's a sow or whatever and, and leave it.

Um, I feel like we have a little bit more leeway or more tools in the toolbox with a hound. Absolutely. [00:22:00] Absolutely. I mean, that's undeniable that the use of dogs, the bear is. If not the most selective, one of the two most selective means, and the only other one being bait, and Virginia is a non bait state, and it has been made extremely clear by DWR that bait is disfavored, um, based upon disease management issues, now it mains on the, on the landscape here in Virginia the way that it is, uh, baiting for deer, baiting for other things, the surveys that they've run, Uh, bait seems to be highly disfavored, um, as, in, as terms of public opinion.

Um, so that leaves us with, with dogs. And I think that's a great thing, because it is an extremely selective method. Um, that selectivity is something that you bring up. Yes, we can look at a bear and say, hey, that bear is, that bear is a sow or that bear is a boar. Okay, next question is, how old is it? If it's an old [00:23:00] gray muzzle.

Tattered, eared, you know, old, you look at her and go, that great grandma is dry. Okay, she's done all she can do. It's not going to hurt the population to take her. Or you look at her and go, that, that, that big 450, 500, well, you ain't going to get one of those boys up a tree normally. But if you get one of the big boys up a tree, you can look at him and go, you know, okay, that's about as big as they get in this area.

He's at the peak. I'm going to go ahead and take him out. You can look at it the other way and go, Hey, that's a, that's a three, four, five year old sow. That's our brood stock. Leave her alone. That's a young male. Let's pass on him and go get something else. And the other means of hunting here in Virginia that we have available to bear hunters just do not give us that type of selectivity because you don't see the volume that you can see with dogs.

Yeah. Yeah. Um, and man, we could go down a rabbit hole here talking about, you know, that and [00:24:00] everything else. Um, but before let's, let's talk about some committees before we jump down there, because when we get into the bear population. I think that's where we can talk about some, some more selectivity that we as hunters on all realms can be more selective.

And then we, then we got to talk about the different areas with the different populations and all that. So let's talk about the Hawk committee. Okay. Tell everybody what that is, what it's set up for. Okay. Okay. Well, first of all, I'm going to answer another question that it's been. posed, and I've heard it bantered around a bunch.

Uh, it's a couple of questions, actually. One, why am I the president of the Virginia chapter? Um, well, the rest of the board members voted to have me as the president of the chapter. That's one, but that, that's the easy cop out reason. The biggest reason is, on a professional basis, what I do is non profit management development.[00:25:00]

This is what I have been doing for well over a decade. I have about two decades worth of experience in and around it. I know how non profits run, how they work. Um, what the management of them looks like, how to run committees, how to engage on the on the public committee side of things, the PR side, the funding side.

This is just what I do. Um, and my role as chapter president is to remain as neutral as possible among the conversations throughout our board. And our board contains, you know, multigenerational houndsman like, uh, George Lambert. Um, Jared Hubbard, Nick Shute, um, a hunter education instructor who is a multi generational hound and a close friend of mine, someone I actually call an indoor, Jason Miller.

Um, bowhunters, Jason's now a devoted, um, traditional bowhunter, Wayne Dixon, um, [00:26:00] public land advocates like Eric Lehman, new hunters, uh, like Kida Fedders and Dana Lofquist. Yeah, this is this is the entire spectrum of hunters in Virginia, and my job is to stay neutral and let them debate things and question things from their personal perspective and to try to make sure that we all come to not consensus, but 100 percent agreement.

We have not done a single thing as a chapter that the entire board has not agreed to, which I think is a great thing because it's very rare. The next question is, where does the Virginia chapter stand on hunting with dogs and RTR? Well, I think we pretty well touched on where we stand with hunting with dogs.

As far as RTR, the Virginia chapter absolutely, 100 percent supports the right to retrieve as vital to being able to continue the tradition and the effective [00:27:00] management of hunting bear with dogs in Virginia. And I'm saying specifically about hunting bear because we're a bear hunting organization. We don't, we don't talk about rabbit hunting or duck hunting or anything else that uses dogs.

We just talk about bear. It's not plus or minus on anybody else. But we cannot continue to, to manage bear with the use of dogs. And we cannot continue our tradition to do it without RTR. So we 100 percent support that. Yeah. And that goes for me personally as well. So if there's any other question about where I stand, now you have it on record, my voice, on a podcast, done.

Um, so, Ad Hoc Committee, in the January meeting at, um, the Department of Wildlife Resources Board, uh, meeting, the January board meeting, let me put it that way, I stumbled over that, but that's alright, because it's late. Um, The the board called for the creation of an ad hoc committee. Ad hoc means [00:28:00] special one time committee with a specific purpose to examine the ongoing, as the board put it, ongoing conflict between private landowners and hound hunters in their terms, um, around RTR, illegal trespass, et cetera.

Unlawful hunting on private grounds, all the things that go into it or are supposedly going to it. So, as that committee has gone on, one aspect of it was that DWR staff and internal advisory committees were formed that they analyzed whatever data they looked at. Um, they analyzed other state information.

They, they looked at laws. They looked at regulations. We're not privy to that at this point. We haven't seen that report. Uh, then they launched a public survey that I'm sure a lot of hunters in Virginia and elsewhere saw because there was a bunch of organizations, including ours, that were pushing that out to get [00:29:00] people to fill out the survey.

Uh, those survey results were in, they've been analyzed. This phase is where they had pulled together 19 individuals representing either organizations or as independent citizens, uh, on this committee to come together and see if we can. Generate some type of solutions or proposed solutions or ideas that will then go to the DWR board for them to act on, um, December, January time frame.

So, we are, we just finished up meeting number two of five. Um, I can tell you there's been a whole lot of talk, but not a whole lot on the table. So, there's really not any proposals or concepts that have been. offered yet. Um, there's a lot of banner that you'll see on social media about, oh, they're gonna do this or do that, or they're going to do the other.

We haven't discussed that, um, has brought up. There's been a lot of Yeah, just a lot of talk, but [00:30:00] nothing substantive on the table yet. Um, in my opinion, this ad hoc committee is a great opportunity for us to try to find a way to defuse this situation before a new legislature after an election after redistricting that pushed a lot of political power to northern Virginia and to Tidewater comes in.

So, in the very first meeting, it was nearly unanimous among all groups, including the private property rights groups, that no one wanted this, this, um, situation to go to the legislature. We just could No one trusts what the General Assembly might do. Thank the Lord. So, well, the Lord help us if it does because if you know what politicians like that is going to do, please let me know and we'll go to Vegas.

Yeah. But other than that, it's all bets are off. [00:31:00] So, we don't have any answers yet because there's nothing really even proposed that could be an answer. There's been talk about... Geofencing. There's been talk about the use of GPS collars. There's been talk about, um, increased enforcement. There's been talk about a lot of different things, but nothing substantive is on the table.

So, um, I simply don't know because there's nothing to know yet. Right. And then that will, that lead us into the, um, the stakeholders advisory committee, or is that what you were talking about? That's what we're talking about. Those 19 people are, are, um, have been selected as stakeholder members of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

Um, I sit on that committee. Our chapter vice chair, uh, Vice President Jared Hubbard is the alternate if I'm not able to make it. Um, The Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance is on there. Um, the Virginia Bear Hunters Association is on there. There are private property groups on there. [00:32:00] Um, there are a number of organizations on there.

There's a couple of, um, there are a couple of, um, local county representatives on it. Um, there are five at large members on there. It's a, it's a pretty broad group. So can you run over real quick why that? that particular committee was actually formed. Can you talk about the lawsuit that was pushed and that's why we're having this conversation?

Well, the lawsuit wasn't really the reason that this committee was formed. Um, it's just part of the overall push. Um, The committee was formed because of the, the stakeholder advisory committee was formed as part of this whole ad hoc committee. Um, the ad hoc committee was, was assigned, uh, DWR actually sought outside, independent, um, third party negotiators.

Uh, the Institute for Environmental Negotiation, they're [00:33:00] running it. They designed the way that they wanted this process to, to work. Um, the Stakeholder Advisory Committee was a suggestion by them as to, uh, component of the overall process. And that's where that came from. The lawsuit that you're talking about was the Madero's versus Department of Wildlife Resources case, where there were a number of private landowners that sued DWR, um, claiming that, um, the right to retrieve was a violation of a Supreme Court case called Cedar Point versus I believe Cedar Point versus Hasad or Haseed out of California, just simply referred to as Cedar Point.

Um, that, that case failed, um, on a number of points, but it is dead. Um, it, it was turned down by the Court of Appeals, um, and at this point, it's gone. So now it then, [00:34:00] uh, now it falls to, um, a theory called race adjudicata, which means that, uh, essentially in legalese, it means at this point it's already been adjudicated.

Uh, we've already, you know, the courts have already decided this matter. So any subsequent case is going to have to differentiate itself. From Madero's and I say subsequent case because you can always figure that there's going to be something else later But now they have to say oh, this is the legal problem and we're different from this case.

So it makes it

Yep all right, so Let's talk about the the draft bear management plan. Let's go into that. That's probably gonna take us a little bit Yeah, that's what I've been working on this afternoon is putting together, um, the revised comments for our state, our state chapter board members and the stakeholder, or the, excuse me, stakeholder, the, uh, science advisory committee.

[00:35:00] There's too many SACs right now. Um, I've got, we've got multiple SAC abbreviations going on, so, but, um. Yes, so the draft black bear management plan is a plan that will dictate what the Department of Wildlife Resources does for managing bear in the state of Virginia for the next 10 years, 2023 through 2032.

Um, It's overdue. Um, it was delayed via, via COVID when, you know, people couldn't get together and couldn't do certain things. Um, that's, that's one of the reasons. There was also some change over at DWR that delayed, delayed things as well. But, um, the draft Black Bear Management Plan, the, um, comment period actually closes on it tomorrow, Tuesday, September 5th at 1 p.

m. And we will have our chapters revised comments to that, to that plan file before then when we do, we'll also make them public on our Facebook [00:36:00] page as we have every other recommendation or proposal that we put forward. So anything in this plan from the DWR side that, that we should go over? I don't want to say that's alarming.

Maybe that's something that you're kind of like. Kind of raising your eyebrows like what, um, I know again, this has been years ago. Um, back when tech was doing theirs and from 93 to 2003, I was very privileged to be involved with some of the, um, the biologists there at tech and was able to go out numerous times and help them find, um, collared bear and be able to tranquilize them, take the collars off.

Do the, all the, um, biological stuff they needed to do, weighed them, checked them, drew the blood. Um, so I, I got to do that quite a bit because of the relationship that I had with some of the biologists, which I [00:37:00] formed, um, through a gathering where they all took us in to a, a, a den and pulled the sow and everything.

So, and back then. And we're going to go back into the feeding back then you could, you could bait on private land during running season. And when we get into the population stuff, I want to talk about that, but is there anything in that, that plan on, on, not on our side, but on the other side that we should be commenting that we should be reading and trying to understand anything is your thoughts with that.

Well, I think by the time this probably airs, unless we're already live and I didn't know it, by the time this airs, um, the comment period will already be closed. Um, so I think there's some things that we need to be aware of, but I think there, and most of the things I think we need to be aware of are good [00:38:00] developments long term.

Um, I want folks to realize that our DWR

biologists and employees that work around there. There's just a handful of them to cover the whole state. Uh, we have one Black Bear Project lead, Carl Tugen, one, one guy. Um, he works very closely with two other individuals directly on the Black Bear management team, and then they have the regional biologists and regional managers scattered out across the state.

But those regional biologists, regional managers are responsible for managing everything else as well. Um, you know, Katie Martin, who's on that team, oversees deer, bear, and turkey management. Talk about a thankless job, because she gets blasted from us, she gets blasted from the Deer Hunters Association, she gets blasted from the National Wild Turkey Federation, um, somehow or another she avoided waterfowl, so she [00:39:00] doesn't have to deal with, you know, duck hunters and all the federal stuff.

Um, you know, Nelson Lafon has to deal with all the forest management. So, those folks are stretched really, really thin. And I do believe, having had conversations with them, That their hearts in the right place, they're doing the absolute level best that they can. And you can go back and take a look at the comments that we just filed with the last board meeting.

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Um, but we've asked them to put more support in because, you know, those folks are doing the best they can. We have a new state wildlife veterinarian, um, who I think is a huge ally for hunters [00:42:00] and especially for bear hunters here in Virginia. Um, his update on manes was one that I think is five years overdue.

Um, and one of the things that he's pushing for and that we're seeing in this new black bear management plan is new, more modern science. Science that doesn't require three years worth of lag data. Um, science that is looking forward, not just backwards. Science that will be analyzing populations, not just on a statewide basis, on a guesstimate, based upon what we think the overall population looks like, but populations down to each management zone, which is huge.

That's never been done before. Um, we're seeing, we're seeing an increase in really wanting to figure out what we believe is the premier big game animal in the state of Virginia and what the populations are doing and how we can be more responsive. Um, I think one of the things that, that we can [00:43:00] always be aware of and focused on is the public perception.

Of, of bear hunting. And there's a, there's a quote out of the draft, uh, black bear management plan that I want to pull up and I should be able to do it because I've got my notes that I'm working on right now. Um, quote, the future of bear hunting will be affected significantly by public perception of bear hunters and bear hunting activities.

That's exactly right. You know, what kind of face are we putting out there? Um, how is the public perceiving us? What are we doing to improve the way that we represent ourselves and bear hunting? Because, you know, we're a small portion of the population. And if the majority of the population for some reason turns against us, New Jersey, [00:44:00] Washington State, Florida, It won't be that we'll just lose bear hunting with dogs.

We'll lose it all. And that's nowhere any of us want to be. And it's frankly not where the Department of Wildlife Resources wants to be either. Because at that point, we've reduced the premier big game animal in the state to a nuisance. Which no one wants. The draft plan also calls for de emphasizing kill permits, which is great.

Um, we're even hearing it from the Farm Bureau. It wants to try to step away from kill permits and find other ways to reduce bear, uh, damage on crops. That's great. We're all for that. And in fact, our chapter helped sponsor, um, the first ever study on the use of bugs to mitigate crop damage last year. It had never been done before, so we're totally trying to make that [00:45:00] happen.

So I think that I think the plan is a good one. I don't think that there's anything in there that is overly negative, um, to bear hunters, but there are always things in there we need to take, take a close look at and pay attention to. I think what we should be, we should be doing all of us is pushing. to have DWR take a closer look at their populations and changes in population dynamics more often than every 10 years.

You know, if it's a 10 year plan, great, let's have every three to six year check ins, and we're asking for that. Uh, especially with something like mange on the, on the, on the landscape, or, um, something like what we've just seen with the, the Three early three day season. And there's a hot button issue. Um, that early three day season was always designed to be a temporary measure [00:46:00] five years, right?

Temporary five year. And guess what? We ran five years in most of the eyes. Temporary five year measure to reduce their populations in certain counties by up to 25%. Yep. Well, um, It's kind of hard to figure out how you're reducing the population by 25 percent when you don't know what the populations are in those regions.

Fortunately, we're seeing better science, uh, being pushed in this new management plan that will address that. But Um, based upon the harvest data, we well exceeded 25%. In some counties, we're looking at 80 to 85 percent reductions in population. And Mange, Mange is a huge one. Yeah, I mean, look at Page County.

Look at the harvest rate drops in Page County, in Frederick County, uh, Rappahannock County, Shenandoah, Rockingham, Rockbridge, Augusta. Those things fell off the cliff. Um. Yes, mange is a huge part of [00:47:00] that. The fact that we had to complete mass crop failures in the same five years was a big factor in that.

Um, but another big factor in it. And this is something that when our chapter analyzed the the science behind it and harvest data, we had it analyzed by other bear managers across the country. And then when we had a conversation with the DWR biologists, what we realized that was that during those three days, The rate of adult sow harvest, those four to ten year old sows was about four times higher on those three days than it was during any other time during the season.

So we were taking out our brood stock during those three days. And, and, and, as much as you and I just talked about how selective, uh, bear hunters with dogs can be. About three quarters of the bears taken during those, that three day season [00:48:00] were taken with the benefit of dogs. So we, and it's not just those of us using dogs.

Bow hunters were just as responsible, you know, rifle hunters were just as responsible. We were not being selective. We were not doing our job and the impact, yes, it absolutely reduced the population, but it reduced the population in a way that We didn't want, and when you threw in mass crop failures and you throw mange in on top of it, we got a catastrophic event and not a management event.

So we're trying to avoid that again. Yeah, and that was one of the topics that, that I wanted to talk about, is with the three day, with the three day season, and I know we've, we've brought it down to 26 counties, which is all south of Roanoke. Um, Um, and I think, I think the hunters in this area, and I can't speak for everyone because I've talked to several, [00:49:00] but it, I'm sure there's people that I haven't talked to, I feel like as a hound hunter, we would just be as, we would be as happy just being able to hunt that week.

We don't have to take anything, which you and I have talked about that too. Um, but back to what I was going to say. It is our, it is our responsibility and we have to, we have to, we have to have ownership because the hound hunters as a whole are more responsible for that action than the bow hunters ever could be because there's more of us.

There's more of us. If you look at the statistics, um, and you start breaking it down. And I don't have them in front of me, but the majority of those taken are going to be with hounds, the majority. And I'm, when I say that, I'm going to say it's probably going to be 80 percent or more of those sows. [00:50:00] And, you know, that's been a topic within our group this year.

Um, we got a lot of little gung ho last year and probably took three, three bear that we shouldn't have took. And when I, when I say that, oh, they were legal, they were whatever, but we didn't need to kill them. Should have left them sitting and walked on. And that's our responsibility. That's our ownership.

And this year we are going to do our best, our best to not take a sale period. Um, we have talked about our, um, logistics of upping the weight. You know how I feel about that? You know, we're looking for those mature boars. That's what we want. Um, and I have to, I have to put a caveat on this because there is a, there's a huge thing here that goes into play is we don't have a problem with overpopulation on National Forest.

And anybody that [00:51:00] runs knows that there is not an overpopulation on National Forest. Every bear that we've caught this year during training season has been in that hundred or under. Ratio, other than two, two select bear, everything else has been a hundred or under. Um, so that kind of says what we're talking about.

Those, those bear not even mature yet, whether it's a boar or sal, it's not mature yet. Um, and I wished, I wished collectively as hound hunters that we would be more, even more picky. In those, in those areas, um, then we are, which that brings the whole other ball game up, John, of, um, you know, private property, farmers having, you know, like three and four and five bear coming in and destroying our cops.

I mean, you [00:52:00] and I have talked and we'll just throw Floyd out there. I mean, Floyd is flipping running. Oh, they're like rabbits. They're like rabbits. You can't pursue hounds on the South side of 81. And it's a safe, it's a safe haven for them. Well, um, I will tell you that. Part of that statement you just brought up is something we're working on.

Yep. I'm aware. As you and I well know. But, you know, you're talking about the difference in population statewide. And yes, anybody that hunts that has any sense at all knows that our national forest management is pathetic. It's abysmal. It's just, it's just... You know, it's 50 years worth of Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Wilderness Society, insanity, um, that keeps us from being able to manage the National Forest.

And that is a far bigger problem than [00:53:00] you and I can ever try to figure out how to solve. Um, but we have distinct population zones throughout the state. The National Forest is one area. Then when you get into private property areas, um, you know, the safe haven zones like Floyd County. Um, some of the central Virginia counties like, like Appomattox and Buckingham are just run over with them.

I was recently scouting in, not those counties, I won't give away my spots. Um, but I was recently scouting in some areas down in that region. And you go around a corn field that's just starting to come into milk. And you're already seeing 1, 500, 2, 000 square foot areas just absolutely mashed down. And the bear's not even in there feeding yet.

They're just investigating whether or not that's the area they want to, they want to hole up in. Uh, You know, you're, you're looking at those things and looking at those areas and, and then you get some areas like the larger urban and suburban areas. Um, you know, there are some huge, huge [00:54:00] urban and suburban, uh, zones in and around cities like Roanoke and Salem that are small track private property with, with fairly decent sized wooded areas inside of them.

That we have bears that pretty much live their entire life inside of those areas and never get hunted. Um, why? Because bears are smart. Bears are extremely smart. And they figure out where they can go to get away from pressure. They figure out where they can go to get food. And if they've got no pressure, and food, and water, and somewhere to lay down when it gets bad weather, they stay put.

There's no reason to move. Why would you move, right? I got, I got a fully stocked refrigerator and a kitchen. I got a comfortable bed and nobody messes with me. I'm staying put. That's essentially what the Bears are doing too. Um, so you're right, we have some very different zones, but you're also talking about what we can do from a selectivity standpoint and an education standpoint.

Um, one of the first things our chapter did, even before [00:55:00] we officially formed as a chapter, was design out Get approved and start teaching the first ever Bear Hunting 101 workshop with DWR and Virginia Hunter Education. Uh, I'm leading that class again in two weeks. It is my absolute favorite hunter education class to teach every year.

And we're working with DWR and Hunter Education to try to figure out how to replicate that class in various places. Not just for houndsmen. Um, you and I both know how often it is that somebody comes in with, you know, when we used to have check stations, which I personally would like to get back to, um, but would come in with, Oh, I got a 400 pounder on the back of the truck and it's one 75 to 200.

I took my first bear at way 220 on the nose with an empty stomach. If you had told me after me trying to move that thing out of the woods, that it weighed 400 pounds, [00:56:00] I'd have believed you because it was, there was nothing I could do to move it. I've drugged 180, 200 pound deer out of the woods, you know, strained, but I've got them moving.

There was nothing I could do to move that thing. If you'd have told me it was 400, yeah, I'd have believed it. But we see that all the time, um, and being able to help all bear hunters, whether they're a brand new one that's never seen a bear on their own, you know, Whether they're somebody that's been running hounds forever, somebody that's a bowhunter getting into it, have them learn how to identify bears, how to identify a sow or a boar, how to really figure out how old, you know, ballpark how old is it, how large is it, so that they can be selective.

You know, we were joking with the um, Actually, the Virginia Peninsula Sportsman's Association at the show earlier this year about the impact that QDMA, Quality Deer Management, the Quality Deer Management Association has had on the quality of deer coming into their show. Uh, we were joking with them about, you know, what would it [00:57:00] be like if we had a quality bear management concept?

You know of let the sows pass, figure out how to let that that bear go. 'cause oh, that bear might only be four or five, maybe six. Okay. Well that bear's north of 10. Maybe I'm gonna take it now. Um, you know what impact that would have on bear management, bear hunting? I personally think it's a great idea.

We just need to figure out how to make it happen. Yeah. Well that, and that's a little harder, I mean, You know, even some of us, I mean, I misjudge them suckers all the time, and I've seen a pile of bear, you know, two or three, and I mean, you, you, they're fluffed up, they're balled up, they're, you know, you don't see their bellies, you don't see this, you don't see that, and, and then, like I said, they have that shrinkage when they hit the ground.

I mean, all, all of us have had that happen to us. Um, We've had a few that's growed a couple hundred pounds. Oh, absolutely. Look, that, that buck, [00:58:00] that, that buck behind me, um, we didn't do ground shrinkage. I was sure that buck was bigger than it was. Um, but you know, it's, it's, um, I had an old bear hunter tell me a good number of years ago, he said, son, when you see a big bear, you know, It's big.

You see, because there ain't nothing on it that says anything other than big. That's right. That's exactly right. Yeah, I mean when you see a big one There's just no question like that's that's just huge And I think that's the thing that you know We're getting to the point when I was a kid growing up in South End and Nelson County We didn't have any bears in that part of the county.

You know, one of my uncles, um, and this will tell you how far back it was. One of my uncles saw a bear track on an old logging road one morning. Walked out to the truck, drove home to get the Polaroid camera. Drove back in, hiked back in to take a picture because he didn't think [00:59:00] anybody would believe him.

Wow. And a handful of years later, that same man saw 11 bears from tree stands in one season. We've been covered up with them ever since. We're getting to the point in Virginia, and really I think we are to the point in Virginia, where any bear hunter, whether you're a bow hunter, whether you're a rifle hunter, whether you're a houndsman, any bear hunter in Virginia can be selective, because the odds are if you see one bear during the season, you're probably going to see more than one.

And you can take the chance on Yeah, I can let that one walk because it looks relatively small. There's probably a bigger one I'll see. And if you don't see it that year, you'll probably see it the next. We can do that now, 40 years ago. No, probably not. Cause it's probably the only bear, unless you were running really good dogs in a really, really thick area.

That's probably the only barrier you were going to see. Yeah, I've said it, I've said it numerous [01:00:00] times on this podcast and I do, I don't wish to get back to those days, but there have been times, well, when I first started, if you caught five bear in a year, you had some darn good dogs. And you're just like you said, the population just, it wasn't here.

Um, And then, you know, things started changing in 2000s and by 2005, six and seven is when I saw that drastic, drastic change. Um, and again, that'll take us back to our feeding. I feel like that when we were able to feed, I think it accomplished a couple things. Um, it accomplished. It, it helped the sows can be healthy when they went into the den, they were fattened up.

They didn't have to abort the, the cubs and use them as protein. They were, they were, uh, their litters upped or litters, their cubs upped, you know, he was going one, two and three. [01:01:00] Um, and then I want to get back to the, to the management part of it. I still feel very, and I, I know I'm beating a dead horse, but.

If you could start baiting, you could draw some of these bear out of these nuisance areas and these farmer's places that would take care of some of that problem. And I know that, you know, people don't want to hear that, but that is an effective management tool. I tend to agree with you. Um, you know, a bear is, and I described this, you were there, um, describe the, this to the, a group of, of citizens out of Floyd County a few weeks ago, you know, and trying to get folks to understand what a bear is and why bears do what they do when they cause problems.

You know, if you think about it this way, other than about six weeks in the middle of the summer when they're thinking about breeding. Right. A bear is a stomach with the best nose [01:02:00] in the, in nature attached to it. And the body is just there to move the nose around, to feed the stomach. That's all it is.

Just a vehicle. Get him there. Yeah, and so I, you know, I tend to agree with you. A bear is going to go from highest value food source to highest value food source year round. And if that highest value food source happens to be an orchard, or happens to be beehives, or happens to be a cornfield, that's where they're going to be.

If it happens to be a dumpster, that's where they're going to be. But if you can give them alternatives, and trust me, I would much rather have us be able to actually manage the National Forest and have the forest produce food, but it doesn't. Um, but if you can provide food for them in an area outside of where they're causing problems, they'll go to the food every time.

Yeah, no, agreed. Let, um, let's touch on the mains real quick. We don't have to go into, uh, I know that the northern counties, especially the [01:03:00] Shenandoah, everybody, the bear hunts in Virginia. Uh, knows this, it's, it's common knowledge that that, that was the hotbed and it's kind of, it's kind of spiderwebbed out.

Um, and if I'm not mistaken, I heard somebody say that it was down, they'd seen cases in Bedford. Yeah, um, we're, we're getting reports of cases down Bedford. Uh, we're getting reports of cases in Campbell, um, Bath, Botetourt, down that, that area. Um, Nelson County, unfortunately my home county seems to be a hotbed of just a hot spot right now.

Um, it's still prevalent to some degree in those northern counties. They haven't shaken it yet, so that population is going to have an even harder time of trying to rebound. Um, fortunately, it does not seem to have jumped the James River into Appomattox and Buckingham yet. Uh, [01:04:00] Appomattox and Buckingham are thick with bears.

Charlotte, uh, Cumberland, those areas are fairly thick. Uh, Mecklenburg, Pennsylvania, good bear counties down there. Uh, Halifax too, but it doesn't seem to have gotten down there yet. Doesn't seem to have gotten as far southwest as Floyd or Roanoke much yet. Um, which is good because as thick as the bears are in that part of the state, if it gets down there, it's going to be bad.

Um, The new state wildlife biologist gave us an update last month about where we are with mange and and I thanked him for it. I told the DWR board it was exactly what we've all been listening for and waiting for. It's just five years overdue. Um, he's really good. I'm very impressed. Uh, his name is John Tracy.

Uh, keep your ears out for him because I think we've got a great advocate and a great advocate. Uh, veterinarian working for DWR at this point that wants to figure this out. Um, he's [01:05:00] digging into the science. He's working on it. Um, they just finished a study in the University of Georgia with the USDA's Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study.

SQUIDUS is what they call it for an acronym. Um, and this is gonna be kind of weird science, but they, they've done a full DNA sequencing of the mitochondrial DNA. It's a little part of a cell. Um, for the mange mite. And the mange mites causing sarcoptic mange here in Virginia seem to be genetically different from the maine's mites in Pennsylvania.

Um, the ones in Arkansas, Missouri seem to be different. The ones in Kentucky and West Virginia seem to be different. They don't know what that means. They just know that they're different. Um, but being able to [01:06:00] start identifying what the differences are, um, might. end up figuring out what we can do with it.

Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment. They have tried. Um, they've tried it in Virginia. They've tried it in Pennsylvania. They've tried ivermectin. They've tried Birbecto. They've tried, um, a number of different antimicrobial, antiparasitic, um, treatments. and they just don't work. Um, part of it is due to dosing because bears come in different shapes and sizes.

Uh, part of it is the frequency of dosing. You know, you can't just make sure that the bear gets it 72 hours after it gets its first dose. Um, and then the really bad part of it is that it seems that even if they are able to treat a bear and get it recovered, that once that bear goes back out onto the landscape, They, they recontract mange and they contract it at a much worse level.

So even [01:07:00] if they're able to cure it, quote unquote cure it in a lab setting, um, once the bears back out on the landscape and they encounter the mange mite again, it just turns out worse for them. So unfortunately there is no treatment for it yet. Um, they do try, they are trying to figure it out. Um, The theory is at this point, is that like any other type of, um, outbreak, whether it be a virus, a bacteria, a parasite or whatever, that there will be an initial population decline in the surviving population.

will develop either an immunity or a tolerance to it over time. And they believe that that's what's happened in Pennsylvania. But again, knowing that there's now a difference in the mite itself, that may or may not be the case. Um, Dr. [01:08:00] Tracy did discuss in his presentation that we are seeing far more severe cases of mange in Virginia than they have in Pennsylvania.

Uh, Pennsylvania has seen As they described it, 25 to 30 percent or so severe cases, and the severe cases are the ones we've all seen where they're essentially hairless, they're extremely malnourished, they're, they're dying. Uh, they're, they're seeing those on the 20 to 30 percent range. In some areas of Virginia, we're seeing them as high as 60%.

Yeah. So. What does that mean? They don't know. Um, and, and that's not a cop out because it's simply a, well, I can guess, but a guess isn't knowing. Um, but I think that what it does tell us is that We need to be very aware of, of mange on the landscape. We need to figure out how to work with it better. There have been calls [01:09:00] for us to have a better mange reporting system, rather than simply calling USDA.

I wholeheartedly agree with that. We need to be able to get a hold to someone much quicker than waiting for USDA to eventually get around to calling a state biologist because a bear could be 50 miles from where they were seen. Uh, or it could already be dead. So, you know, that's, that's where we are. And, and I wish I had better news, but we don't.

Well, hopefully I know that kind of everybody feels like we got behind the ball on that as, as a state agency. Um, but now they're trying to catch up on it and doing the right thing. And hopefully they can figure something out before it. Does a lot more damage than it's already done, which like you said, the population decline has been pretty much falling off a cliff.

So let's hope it stays up there.

I said, no, I said, I hope it stays above the James and don't come down here.[01:10:00]

American Bear Foundation has had 10, 000 sitting on the table waiting for DWR to launch this main study now for two years, almost two years. Um, so once it's finally approved and they give us the account, uh, number, we will transfer that, those funds over and, and make good on our promise to do what we can to help, um, address the mains issue.

We're trying to get other support as well. Um, I know some folks are saying, oh, it's just throwing money, you know, throwing, throwing good money down the drain. But. If you don't try to do something, then all we're doing is sitting around complaining and I, I don't really buy into that as a, as something worthwhile.

So we're going to try. Yeah. Um, and we're, we're, we're committed to doing what we can. I wish we could do more faster, but we're, we're kind of, as you said, we're kind of behind the eight ball. But even Pennsylvania has been dealing with Maine's for 30 years and they haven't got it figured out yet. So how much further behind can we get?

[01:11:00] Right. So before we wrap this up, I mean, is there anything else that, um, one thing I wanna, well, you asked about population. Yes. You asked about population. I wanna address that. Yeah. Because this is, this is actually gonna get me in trouble. . Uh, so the, the bear management plan for 2001 to 2012, um, It said that there was a statewide estimated Black bear population.

Oh, yeah. Um, , well, I, I'll put it to you. Yeah. Uh, in 2007 using 2005 department, then Department of Gaming and Fisheries Data. Estimated there were seven to 9,000 bears statewide. The 2012 to 2022 Black Bear Management plan. [01:12:00] Estimated the population at 000 bears with a population rate of increase of And if you do the math, that tracks well from 2012 through to 2022, the estimated population growth is 6 to 7 percent statewide.

If anybody wants to sit down with a calculator and do the numbers, they're going to come up with the same numbers I did, which is for 2012, 2023. If we started with 16 to 17, 000 bears, we don't end up with 18 to 22, 000 bears statewide. We ended up with a lot more. We ended up with about twice that many actually.

Um, Do I believe that there's 35, 000 bears in Virginia? I'd say we're closer [01:13:00] to 35, 000 than we are to 22, 000. Um, I'd say that if we had not seen the dramatic decrease in population in the northwestern counties like Page, Shenandoah, Frederick, and all the rest, that yeah, I would absolutely tell you we probably would have 35, 000 bears.

Um, I'd again, I'm simply going to say, I think we have a lot more bears than the official estimate of 18 to 22, 000. Now we're hearing because of that, um, pushes from deer hunting organizations and others landowners for second bear attacks. Our chapter does not support that. And in fact, we had a very good conversation with the biologists about it.

And I will paraphrase, but the summation was, there's a lot of other tools that we can use prior to issuing the second BEAR tag. And the [01:14:00] Virginia chapter of the American BEAR Foundation will oppose the second BEAR tag as long as possible until it is proven to be biologically and management necessary.

And we're a very, very long way from that. Um, what it does do, though, is I think it, it, it demands that we as bear hunters actually start having conversations with the deer hunters and have start having conversations with turkey hunters and start having conversations with, with local farmers and orchardists and, um, all the other stakeholder groups and say, okay, look, what can I do to help?

Hey, how can we manage four bear? And for deer, not either or, but for both and let's do that. Let's figure that out instead of, Oh my gosh, they're going to kill off all the bears. Of course, deer hunters want them gone. Well, if the deer hunter doesn't value bear, why would they want them around? But if we can show them and show the other folks [01:15:00] in the state, what a tremendous animal this is and why we need to value it.

Then we can start managing for both deer and bear. We can manage for bear and turkey. We can, we can do those things that we're supposed to do. Yeah. And again, that's just everybody getting on the same page. This is something I want to go over and you and I talked about it and you had pulled the statistics, but I'm going to read them.

Um, because it goes into to the right to retrieve. And I want everybody to understand how important relationships are. Um, so just for the people that don't know, and I was one of those people, um, the right to retrieve was actually implemented in 1938 with a population in Virginia at 2. 6, 4 million residents.

So 1938 with 200, 2, 2 million, 600, 000 [01:16:00] residents. Today, the population of Virginia is 8 million, 600, 000. So we've increased 6 million people. So when you talk about that, you gotta look at the infrastructure of Virginia, how it's changed. You know, Uh, I was, I was at Autumn Oaks last weekend and I was talking to somebody up there that asked me why I didn't coon hunt anymore.

Well, one of the reasons is because I can't stay up late at night. I'm getting old. The other thing is I have nowhere to hunt. All the farms that I used to hunt, I could hunt six nights a week and never hit the same farm or the same place twice. I had all kinds of places to hunt. Um, I could go pretty much where I wanted to.

That changed. Some of those farms, we've all, we've all dealt with this. It's, they've made it into housing developments. You know, the, the, the older [01:17:00] generation passed away. Their kids sold it off. There's, you know, four or five houses, 10 houses built up in that area now. Um, that changed a lot for me. Uh, but back to the right to retrieve.

Guys, we have to build relationships with landowners. It's very important. And if we want to make our perception as hunters, Perception. So they don't come in like Washington and Oregon and California and say, Nope, we're done with this because you guys are just rogues. Y'all come and do what you want to do and you have no respect for us.

Uh, that's up, that's, that's for our ownership. And we need to be able to build those relationships with landowners. Um, Again, I used to know everybody where I lived. I could go, I could, I could walk to town which was three and a half miles and stop at anybody's house and talk to them and they would invite me in or they'd give me a ride home.

You know, we don't [01:18:00] have those times now. We've had a lot of, and when I say locals, I mean uh, lifelong residents of Virginia. It's not that way anymore. We, you know, we've had people come in from other States and other areas and they buy their 15 acres and it's theirs. Um, and that's where we're seeing some of the trouble that we've talked about earlier.

So I just want to put that in perspective for the right to retrieve, you know, 1938, 2. 6 million people, nine, 2023, 8. 6 million people. Our population has. Doubled, tripled, actually, it's tripled. So, you know, I encourage you guys, um, I'm an advocate for it to build those relationships and put a good perception.

Um, be good to thy neighbor. You know, we should all be that way. And, you know, that's, that's just something that I wanted to throw out there. And like I said, Sean pulled those numbers for me, so I did not know [01:19:00] that. I pulled a few other numbers recently out of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee, and I posted these up on our chapter page.

So the survey that was done as part of this ad hoc committee had 8, 868 comments filed from across the board. I asked them for the number of times a year was used. Because that would be bear, bear hunters, bear hunting, bear hounds, bear dogs, anything that uses the word bear, 0. 62%, 58 total comments, 58 of 8, 868.

Then when you take out the four that were clearly just anti hunting comments made from lord only knows where, you take out the one irrelevant comment that was about the bear tag being taken off of the general license. And you take out the 14 or so, 11 or 14, [01:20:00] um, it's on the Facebook page, you can see it.

Um, bear hunters or people talking positively about bear hunting. You're left with 37 negative comments. 42%, less than one half of 1 percent of all the comments filed on that survey were negative comments about bear hunters and bear hunting. All the comments combined. came from just 20 counties. Um, and so we were talking about the draft Black Bear Management Plan.

Within the Black Bear Management Plan, there is an objective that DWRLA is out to implement programs to reduce conflicts between bear hunting activities and other Virginia citizens, parentheses, especially landowners, by 25%. Um, part of it is to improve capacity between DWR. Part of it is to implement a system to monitor changes in bear hunting conflicts.

Um, your utility [01:21:00] currently acquired data is a metric for conflicts and develop improved metrics. The 7, is to identify, describe, and document bear hunting activities that result in conflicts with landowners and other citizens. Part of that is to, quote, identify potential solutions to areas of highest conflict.

Well, if we've only got 37 negative comments

total out of 8, 868. I think we can pretty well quickly identify where those areas are and work to mitigate them. And I think that's a lot that that should be said on the overall impact of bear hunting causing problems. Um, are there probably some bear hunters out there that are bumping heads with landowners and it's just what happens.

Heath, you deal with this on a day in day out basis. [01:22:00] What happens when you get two hard headed groups of people and nobody wants to back down? You end up with conflict. Um, are we entering into that situation? Can we do a better job for education and outreach? Absolutely. Can we better educate these landowners and work with them?

Absolutely. Can we work with landowners to extend chase season? Which is what our chapter put forward earlier this year statewide. So we can help mitigate crop damage. Absolutely. Can we find a way to do this better so that we can preserve and protect our traditions and our ability to hunt bear with dogs for the next hundred years?

Yeah, absolutely. Um, and so what I would like for folks to do is if you, you've got any other questions about what our chapter does or about us, hit us up on Facebook. send us a message. Um, reach out to me directly. Um, you know, we definitely need your support. Um, I am honored to serve on the National Board of Directors for the American Bear Foundation with [01:23:00] Chris Powell.

Um, that's a lot of fun, you know, and, and I think, you know, better representing all bear hunters, whether we're houndsmen, whether we run Western Siberian lakas or curse or face, whether we bow hunt, whatever we do. We've got to all work together and do this better because we're all in this together, whether we want to be or not.

That's right. Well, Sean, I appreciate your time and like I said, just the education that you give us. Um, like I said, I sat in that class or that meeting with you, you know, it enlightened me a little bit. And Houndsmen. Um,

And I know that if I don't advocate for the bow hunter and the gun hunter and the muzzleloader hunter, then I'm not going to have it to advocate for. So just throwing that out there for you guys. Um, hope this was, um, enlightening and [01:24:00] hope that it gives you something to think about. And again, we've said it before.

Everybody's got to get involved. If you, if you're, if you're. You're hauling a dog around. Um, we need you to get involved. If, if you're a hunter, you need to get involved. So just like we say on every podcast, thank you for helping us teach, train and learn. No, thank you for what you do, buddy. Um, I'm following what you're doing.

Cause I'm learning from you just as much as anybody else. Uh, And I hope you have continued success and maybe some cool weather. I need it. I'm telling you, man, that's I've struggled the last couple of days. I, you think I'd lose some weight, but I'm not climbing up and down the mountains and sweating like a hog.

Shoo. You just do it slower. So it doesn't go anywhere. Yeah, maybe. Well, again, thank you. [01:25:00] Yeah. Talk to you soon, man.