Cumberland Times-News, (serving Western MD & the Potomac Highlands of
WV) to [email protected]
To The Editor:
If they could read Michael A. Sawyers’ recent column, wildlife all
over the country would be celebrating the news that participation in
hunting and fishing has been declining nationwide. While some attribute
the decline to people not being as “outdoorsy” as they used to be,
others are coming to the realization that violence disguised as
recreation is nonetheless violence and as such is wholly unacceptable.
As Shakespeare said "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would
smell as sweet."
As the interest in hunting wanes, non-violent wildlife watching has
become the dominant form of wildlife-related outdoor recreation. The
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports in its 2006 National Survey of
Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation that over 71
million people spent time observing, feeding and photographing wildlife
last year nationwide, outdistancing the interest in hunting which saw
only 12.5 million participants in that same time period. In Maryland,
more than eight times as many people participated in wildlife watching
The time has come to change the way the Maryland Department of
Natural Resources and all state hunting agencies do business by halting
the cycle of managing wildlife populations solely to benefit hunters at
the expense of wildlife, habitat and biodiversity. Let’s replace the
taxes on weapons, ammunition and hunting/fishing equipment and with
similar taxes on outdoor-related equipment such as binoculars,
backpacks, and cameras used by wildlife watchers. Funds collected from
these alternate taxes can be dedicated toward the protection and
preservation of wildlife and the areas where they live, making the need
to depend on hunting, weapons and violence obsolete. To protect wildlife
and the areas where they live please visit
Joe Miele, Vice President
Wildlife Watch, Inc.
Is hunting going down the tubes?
Michael A. Sawyers
This isn’t the Eastern Shore and it sure isn’t central Kansas, but
the mourning dove population in and near Western Maryland seems to be in
pretty good shape this September.
As of this writing I’ve been out twice and with a little more
accuracy could have stored a couple limits in the garage icebox. That’s
the old refrigerator that chills things such as deer quarters and whole
wild turkeys until I can get to them to do the fine-tuned cutting work.
I clean it as often as I think about it or feel up to it and I think
the proof that it is an appropriate place for such wild foods is that
none of us has ever gotten ill from this home-processed venison. The
word venison, by the way, is a term used for all wild game, though most
folks mean deer meat when they verbalize it.
Anyway, in spite of the refrigerator’s occasional cleanliness, it
apparently has a force field that keeps my wife from approaching it.
Either that or she is concerned about what she might see should she open
The opening day of mourning dove season is like a holy day to me. The
kind of day on which you are required to hunt. To not hunt would be to
commit a mortal sin with all of the accompanying spiritual problems.
Speaking of hunting, or not hunting as the case may be, the story
making the rounds now is that the number of hunters continues to
dwindle. We ran the Associated Press version of the piece Sept. 2 at the
top of page one with the headline “Hunter decline worrying state
The article went on to say that the number of hunters 16 and older
declined by 10 percent between 1996 and 2006, from 14 million to about
There are a couple ways to look at this trend. It could mean more
game for fewer hunters and a greater opportunity for success. Of course
that would be a selfish and short-term vision, not that there’s anything
wrong with that.
The other look would be one that sees dwindling license sales, which
means less money for resource agencies.
When it comes to deer, the greatest mortality comes from the end of a
30-06 or 12 gauge. Fewer hunters would mean fewer dead deer which would
in turn mean a lot more dead azaleas, dented BMW grills and miffed
automobile insurance agents.
That would likely be cool, however, with those who oppose hunting
such as the Humane Society of the United States, who would much rather
see a crew of sharpshooters whack deer at night with infrared scopes and
silencers than have a family of dad, mom and kids kill some does and
hang them from a meatpole at a tent camp. They believe that it is wrong
to enjoy gathering your own food if that food happens to be wildlife,
though they do not apply the same reasoning to carrots and lettuce.
Maybe by the time all the hunters are gone, the animal righteous
groups will have developed a birth control for Bambi’s mommy that
actually works and is available for a reasonable price.
The Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service deer biologists tell me
that right now it costs about $1,000 per deer to apply a contraceptive
with no guarantee that it will prevent spotted additions to the herd.
Maybe it is because of my age, but I’m not too concerned about the
future of hunting, though I don’t want to be cavalier about the
declining numbers of nimrods as gathered and supplied by the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service. I want the young people who do hunt to be assured
that they can be sitting under hickories with 20 gauges across their
laps and their grandchildren by their sides in the year 2060 or so.
I believe there will come a time when people either choose or are
forced to recognize hunting as a natural way of survival. Somewhere in a
box I have still have a copy of “The Last Whole Earth Catalog,” which is
a title you will likely recognize only if you have been around a similar
number of decades to mine.
It was a late-’60s, early-’70s, return-to-the-earth book that
instructed you how to do any number of things such as build an outhouse,
make wine or bake bread.
There may come a time, actually I believe there will come a time,
when people have had enough of Blackberries, iPods, Palm Pilots and
Nintendo Wii and sense some sort of almost-but-not-quite lost urge to
feel the wind in their faces, the snow around their boots and the fur of
a beaver they have trapped all by themselves and the taste of its tail
meat that they cook after having started a fire without a match or
But, you can’t make dove breast appetizers without dove breasts so,
in the meantime, while we wait to see if hunting goes down the tubes,
I’ve got some mourning doves to shoot, if my aim improves.
Won’t consider change
John Griffin, Maryland’s secretary of natural resources, has written
to Sen. George Edwards telling him that no changes to the new brook
trout management plan in the Savage River drainage will be considered
for five years.
Edwards had written to Griffin, asking him to consider a compromise
whereby some of the 111 miles of water in that drainage would allow for
the use of bait and the keeping of brook trout.
The new regulations make both illegal.
With this executive rejection, it would appear that any changes would
have to be earned through legislative channels, and would likely have to
be initiated by either Edwards or Delegate Wendell Beitzel or both.
I have never been one who believes that legislation or the courts
should be used to manage fish and wildlife, but in this case I will make
Love those readers
A number of months back I wrote about leaving four dove decoys in a
tree in Hardy County, W.Va., following a hunt there in September 2006.
I didn’t identify the exact spot.
Soon after that column, I got an e-mail from one reader who said his
son found three of them and he would hold them for me. Some time passed
and another reader corresponded, saying he had been groundhog hunting
and found the fourth decoy.
Please guys, go ahead and use those bogus birds and I hope you have
some great hunts with them. When we cross paths I’ll pick them up.
Michael A. Sawyers can be reached at