C.A.S.H. Letters to the Editor > 2007

C.A.S.H. Letters

MD - Hunting in decline

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 than hunting.

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 www.wildwatch.org.

Joe Miele, Vice President

Wildlife Watch, Inc.

Is hunting going down the tubes?
Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

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 door.

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 wildlife agencies.”

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 12.5 million.

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 liquid fuel.

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 an exception.

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 [email protected].


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