A recent article on LouisianaSportsman.com stated only 20 to 30 percent of the deer harvested in the state last season had the tags validated, and detailed an extremely low compliance rate that should startle any ethical hunter. 

I’m proud to say that I have always validated all my harvested deer — with no issues over the phone or Internet.

To have only 48,298 out of an estimated 139,900 deer validated shows things are in desperate need of improvement. 

Our system isn’t hard: A piece of string or zip tie and and an ink pen are all that’s needed to attach and fill out the tag. Then, a quick one-minute phone call or Internet session within one week of the harvest finalizes the validation process.

The state is currently considering a reduction in deer tags and/or season lengths. Neither would bother me, but I would love to see our liberal limits and seasons remain strong.

In this article, I don’t want to get sidetracked on tag numbers and season lengths, but instead want to focus on our struggling tagging system.  

I believe if more accurate deer harvest numbers were reported, most hunters could fully understand and be supportive of any changes implemented, more so than changes based on estimations made from low validation numbers and limited survey results. 

I personally have never received any survey.

Even if the rules remain the same, each and every hunter can help — beginning now — by urging anyone they know who doesn’t validate tags to start doing so.

Is it realistic to think that high compliance numbers will take place after many years without much participation? Have we been over-harvesting our deer population by shooting too many untagged deer, or is it because Louisiana is losing more forested acres at one of the fastest rates than any other state because of development and farmland creation? 

With more than 85,000 less deer harvested last year than the high numbers estimated from the mid-90s, wouldn’t it be nice to have more clear and concise data to base a decision on?

Far more people I’ve talked with have seen their deer hunting take a turn for the worse over the past few years than people who have had consistently better deer hunting experiences in that same timeframe. 

Do we need change? Many people aren’t very supportive because they don’t believe the estimated deer harvest data is accurate enough to alter the rules. 

Personally, I’m trying to remain objective and unbiased and am just airing the concerns I read and hear.

I started a great thread on a popular hunting website about the low compliance with our tagging system, and many other Louisiana hunters came up with some great ideas which are interesting to ponder. Discussing these issues can only be productive, since one can ever know when a good idea may gain traction and be implemented. 

One person recommended that all unused and unvalidated tags from the previous season should be turned in before new tags are issued. I think if you lost your tags, appropriate fines could be tacked on if you want new ones. 

Next, the tags could be improved on. One person suggested they go to adhesive tags that cannot be reused. I’ve personally witnessed ink wash off of tags while dragging deer through a swamp, and have had to reapply the date and parish information mid-haul. A tag with a hole punch system would probably fix the ink problem.

The most intriguing solution I heard was what some states do — issuing only one antlered and antler-less tag. A tag would need to be validated before that hunter’s next tag can be issued at any sporting goods store. 

Other ways of catching tagging violators could be through taxidermists and meat processors, where they can only handle tagged and validated deer. I process all of my own meat and get a buddy to mount my large bucks, but this isn’t necessarily common practice — I’m sure many untagged deer get processed and mounted each season. 

Rewards could be given to good Samaritans who anonymously help catch tag system cheaters on tip hotlines. I’d surely contribute to a reward system if I was asked for donations when my yearly deer licenses were purchased. I’ve even heard of someone who tried reporting deer tag violators who gave names and dates of improperly-tagged kills, but nothing was ever done about it. 

Of course, a common belief to help the problem is that harsher fines and loss of hunting privileges are needed to address the issue. Many people I know are terrified of violating duck laws because of the harsher punishments, but when it comes to violating deer tags they seem to have no fear.

Currently, failing to tag a deer is a Class 3 violation which has a $250 to $500 fine with up to 90 days in jail. An unvalidated tag violation is a Class 2 offense, carrying a $100 to $350 fine with up to 60 days in jail. 

Under either violation, the deer can be seized and a $1,600 restitution fee can be imposed (I personally have never heard examples of the deer being taken away for these basic offenses.) With multiple and repeated violations, gear can also be seized.  

I’ve heard about some of the much stricter fines in other states that seem to have a big impact. Is Louisiana’s Class 2 punishment enough to get people to validate their tags? 

More publicity and articles on deer tagging violations could be posted on hunting websites and social media to expose offenders.  Someone suggested LDWF post a mugshot of criminals — I would gladly pay to read those stories in a magazine. 

LouisianaSportsman.com puts out great Internet articles on rule violators, but rarely are any about simple deer tag violations. It’s just sad more people aren’t caught when more than 100,000 deer apparently went unvalidated last season. 

Maybe more check stations need to be put in place where when wardens check hunters to see if they have their tags, a quick call can be made to see if missing or unattached tags were validated. I’ve heard of people reusing tags with erasable ink, and this would stop that practice. 

Yes, there are numerous ideas to better the status quo. I’m unsure which are practical and which would be helpful, but I see no harm in getting these conversations debated throughout the hunting community. 

Sure, many people probably don’t want to see deer tag numbers reduced and seasons shortened, but at least there is talk and hope for future improvement to reverse this downward trend in harvest numbers. I just hope future changes can be made based on accurate data which we deer hunters can provide by validating our tags.

Louisiana’s system may not be perfect for getting high compliance rates, but look on the bright side: At least our state has a tagging system. Others do not.  

And our state’s system also is very convenient compared to other states, where deer must be checked in at official check stations. Think about how nice we have it compared to the places which require a validated doe kill before a buck can be taken. Yes, we are blessed in many ways. 

So good luck to everyone this coming deer season, and please remember to encourage everyone to validate their tags before we lose some of the great privileges our state provides.

If anyone has any other ideas please comment, as I’m always eager to hear what others have to say. But let's keep the discussion positive and respectful of everyone’s point of view: Remember, we’re all part of the same team —  Louisiana deer hunters.