Deer, turkey tagging bill introduced in Legislature – Jackson Clarion Ledger

If a bill introduced in the Legislature passes, hunters will soon be tagging deer and turkeys. House Bill 1028, authored by Rep. Ken Morgan, R-Morgantown, calls for the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks to implement mandatory tagging of deer and turkey harvests.

The language of the bill is quite familiar. Morgan said it is an amended version of House Bill 1164, which was unsuccessful in navigating through the 2016 legislative session. But there are differences. House Bill 1028 does not include language to allow a fee to be charged for tags. Also, HB 1164 called for implementation of tagging and reporting in the 2016-17 hunting season. House Bill 1028, however, allows more time to develop a tagging and reporting system by stating the new regulation would not take effect until 2018.

Those differences could be keys to HB 1028 gaining the support that its parent never did. Rep. Scott Bounds, R-Philadelphia, who wrote HB 1164, said last year that one of the issues was some felt it did not provide enough enough time to test and implement a harvest tagging and reporting system. Also, some hunters did not warm up to the idea of additional fees, particularly in a year when hunting and fishing license fees were increased.

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Mississippi is currently one of two states that does not require deer tagging and one of three that does not require turkey tagging. Morgan said a system in Mississippi is long overdue.

“To be truthful, I tried to get this introduced 30 years ago with some of our local sitting senators and representatives,” Morgan said. “It never happened. Right now, Mississippi is surrounded by states that have implemented tagging.”

It appears Mississippi hunters would like to join those ranks.

In a 2015 survey report prepared for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, 50 percent of hunters responded they supported deer tagging and reporting. The report showed 37 percent in opposition. The remaining 13 percent were neutral.

When asked about turkey tagging, the results were a landslide. Sixty-one percent of hunters were in favor and 30 percent were in opposition. The remaining 9 percent were neutral.

In a poll conducted by The Clarion-Ledger, 81 percent of participants were in favor of turkey tagging with 19 percent opposed. Morgan said in surveys he and others conducted through social media, up to 72 percent of hunters favored a tagging and reporting system.

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“This is a resource we’ve come to appreciate in Mississippi,” Morgan said. “We’ve got to manage and protect it.”

On the law enforcement side, Morgan said tagging will help conservation officers enforce daily and seasonal bag limits. He noted that under the current regulations, hunters are basically on an honor system. But he stressed the data collected from harvest reporting is what he feels is most important.

“It’s just a good management tool for biologists,” Morgan said. “Honest people aren’t going to have a problem with this bill. People who are game-hogs will have a problem.”

Contact Brian Broom at 601-961-7225 or bbroom@gannett.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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