The B.C. Ministry of Forests is proposing new limits to mule deer hunting regulations to help declining buck populations in parts of the B.C. Interior.

As part of a regulation change currently open to public feedback, the province is proposing limiting the number of mule-deer bucks hunters can bag in the Thompson, Kootenay, Cariboo, Skeena, Omineca, Peace and Okanagan areas.

Currently, hunters are allowed up to three bucks shot in different regions, but the province wants to limit that number to one mule-deer buck per hunter.

"This province has the most liberal mule deer hunting opportunities in all of North America and, historically, that has been considered sustainable, but the landscape is changing out there," said Steve MacIver, a regulations and policy analyst with the fish and wildlife branch.

He says mountain pine beetle, wildfires, oil and gas development and forestry have all changed the landscape resulting in a declining mule deer population.

He also said  mule deer hunting has increased particularly in the Thompson-Okanagan in the last five years.

"We expect [the proposed changes] will reduce the harvest by five to 15 per cent," said MacIver.

The public has until Jan. 19 to weigh in on the proposal and other possible hunting and fishing changes online.

Hunters divided

Alison Stacey, a director of the Vernon Fish and Game Club, thinks the proposed changes go too far and calls it a "knee-jerk reaction."

"Our mule deer populations slowly over time are being managed out of existence," said Stacey.

"We need to manage for the wildlife and not for social or political objectives."

"Generally, hunters are the first to look to restrict themselves. We're conservationists first and foremost," she said.

Dueling Mule Deer banner

The province says it is trying to manage the ratio of does to bucks.

John Rousseau, who has been hunting in the Okanagan region for the past 17 years, disagrees and says the ministry has been too slow to react.

"Every single one of the hunters I've talked to has seen a dramatic decline [in mule deer]," he said.

"In my opinion, and the opinion of most hunters in my region, the mule deer hunt needs to be shut down for at least five years for the species to regenerate."

"If we're not careful, we're just going to completely lose the resource."

The ministry says, for now, the changes are simply proposals with no decision expected until spring 2018.

The public is encouraged to share its thoughts online at the Angling, Hunting and Trapping Engagement website.

With files from CBC's Radio West.