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he Game Commission hosted a meeting in Farmington on October 27th. Although a number of department employees and a few members of the public made the, in many cases several hours, trip to attend the meeting in person, only two commissioners were present. The other 3 commissioners attended via Zoom. All game commission meetings in this post-COVID era are “hybrid”. Yes it’s true that certain things have been made easier and more convenient through virtual meeting technology. Members of the public can comment on rule making from basically anywhere in the world. Meetings can have a greater range of participants. And sick days or snow days (sadly) are a thing of the past. However, much of this new found convenience seems to have also come at the expense of professionalism. Perhaps it’s the time consuming virtual snafus (“can you guys hear me okay”… “you’re cutting out”…”you’re on mute”), or that you frequently can’t see faces/body language, or perhaps it’s just the annoying impression that the person doesn’t seem to care enough to attend physically. There is just something more productive about being in the same room at the same time. Shout out to Commissioners Lopez and Clemente for going out of their way to attend the meeting in person.
BEAR AND COUGAR RULE APPROVAL
The Commission unanimously approved the next 4-year cycle of the Bear and Cougar Rule. Thankfully the Rule was approved without much protest. There were a handful of comments from the usual suspects (Animal Protection NM and the Sierra Club) voicing their opposition to the Rule and predator hunting in general but definitely not the level that the anti-hunting groups were hoping to generate. The new Bear and Cougar Rule will apply to hunting seasons 2024-2027. The full Rule can be read in its entirety on the NMDGF website. Below is a brief summary of the approved changes. BMZ = Bear Management Zone and CMZ = Cougar Management Zone.
FURBEARER RULE APPROVAL
The Commission unanimously approved to make the Furbearer Rule a “permanent” rule. Meaning that the Rule will no longer auto-matically come open every 4 years. This is not to say that the Rule will never be re-opened. The Commission can vote to open the Rule at any time. It just means that it will not be opened on a set schedule. The Dept. mentioned several reasons for making this change, the foremost being that NMDGF only allows harvest of a small amount of furbearers (a number further reduced by the 2022 trapping ban). It makes more sense for the rule to be considered permanent and for the Commission to have Dept. biologists provide annual reports, rather than the overly burdensome constraints of a Rule on an official cycle which is subject to a formal hearing. The Dept. further justified the change by explaining that if necessary the Director can reassess bag limits at any time with the concurrence of the Commission Chair.
HUNTER EDUCATION BRIEFING
The Department provided the commission with an update on their amendments to the Hunter Education Rule. Clarification is needed to address recent advances in technology which is allowing very young children to apply for the NM Big Game Draw. In 2023 a child as young as 3yrs passed an online hunter safety course and successfully drew (and supposedly harvested) big game. Some states that offer online Hunter Education courses do not set a minimum age and the NMDGF currently accepts a hunter training course of another state to meet the hunter training course requirements in New Mexico. Rule clarification is needed to ensure system integrity and hunter safety. The Dept. is proposing adding new language to the rule that clarifies students utilizing Out-of-State Hunter Education Certifications in New Mexico are restricted to hunters ages 9 and older. This change will help to address age requirements and should also help reduce the likelihood of parents or guardians submitting big game draw applications for very young children in an attempt to illegally hunt themselves on drawn tags. This proposal is currently open for public comment. Email your thoughts to DGF-HunterEducation-Rule@state.nm.us
ODDS AND ENDS
The commission also approved the annual depredation report, revocations report, and the application fora 157 acre Pheasant and Chukar hunting preserve on a private ranch east of Raton, NM. Also, the commission also approved the Draw application deadlines for 2024.