Tuesday, September 18, 2012

MY BALANCING ACT BETWEEN HUNTING AND LOVE OF WILDLIFE. THE SCALE UNBALANCE




What - No photos?

 sportsman is a person who behaves fairly and honorably when in the wilds, observing all the rules of ethics and conduct toward all wild things while respecting the quarry they seek and treating the wildlife with respect during and after the hunt.

Thee previous paragraph could be the definition of what a Sportsman is as pertains to the sport of hunting. Well, it is my definition. Why, you ask, is he bringing this topic up on his blog? The reason is that the term Sportsman is a much misused word in these current times. It is a term that is used loosely at best to describe anyone who carries a gun afield to legally hunt game. When folks gather at the breakfast counter at the cafĂ©, the word used to describe those who seek game are called hunters. “There are a lot of hunters in here this morning.”

Yet, when matters of political or legal importance are discussed, the term sportsmen is used. “There are 75,000 sportsmen across this great state of Tennessee who pay hard earned dollars for a license giving them the privilege to take game across the state.”

The word sportsman conjures thoughts of some elite professional game seeker equipped with all the outdoor knowledge and etiquette required to assure property owners that a responsible outdoor person is about to enter onto his land in search of game. He may not allow a hunter access but, a sportsman is of a different cut. After all, hunters are a mix of educated and uneducated, kids of legal age or maybe not, college students or whomever who might have fired a gun at some time in life or maybe not. Don’t want that lot on my ground. No Sir! Give me the sportsman every time.

The fact is that a hunter and a sportsman (when applied to hunting) have the same meaning. I refer you to my definition of what a sportsman is on the opening paragraph to this piece.

When I tried to write this piece on the boat at Beech Creek yesterday I kept writing myself into a corner. I am passionate about wildlife and the wild places and I found myself writing in a biased fashion in favor of the wildlife. It’s not a bad thing to take the part of the things you care about. The dangerous thing about it is writing about the passions and forsaking all else that is interlaced with that passion. So where’s he going with this? I want the readers of my blog to understand perfectly my position on hunting, my position on wildlife and my sentiments toward the mission of TWRA, the agency I have joined that is steward to the wildlife and habitat in this state. So how can I work for a state agency that administers rules and regulations governing hunting if I am passionate about the well being of wildlife and the places they inhabit?

Common sense enters into this piece right about here. Keep the definition of sportsman on the top of your head for awhile. If I write myself into a corner again I’ll make it sound logical even if it isn’t. Don’t worry about it. Keep in mind also that this is my take on the hunting and wildlife topic and no one else’s. Don’t expect too much because I’m old and the synapse process has slowed a bit over the past 5 years.

A message came over the state radio when I was on duty at the lake last week. The dispatch person was talking to a wildlife officer and she said that a fisherman on the lake called and said he saw three duck hunters in a boat shoot a great blue heron. Now, you and I know these guys weren’t sportsmen. They definitely were hunters. A sportsman would never, ever even think about killing a protected species. An officer was dispatched and the perpetrators of the foul, evil deed were apprehended. Two hours later another message came across the radio. A farmer called in and found between twenty and thirty wild turkeys dead in his pasture field that morning. They were simply left lying where they fell. Again, these had to be hunters. Poachers would apply if the birds were gathered up and used but, even the term poacher doesn’t apply. Sportsmen police their own ranks. Yep – had to be hunters.

From 14 years of age until 40 I have “hunted” and taken game animals I loved taking a gun into the woods in search of deer and turkey. Hunting season was savored. It was an escape from the present day reality of life and a mini trip into yesteryear when many families relied on the men of the house to bring game home to supplement the field grown food. I grew to love and adore guns. In the early seventies I would buy a new shotgun or rifle every month. Rifles and shotguns were soon supplemented with handguns. Soon the rifles were left home and the pistol went on the hunt with me. Sometime in the eighties a company named Thompson Center created a gun that would allow interchangeable barrels to be quickly attached. A bigger or smaller caliber barrel could be selected depending upon the requirements for the animal sought after. I killed many deer with that gun. I was all about hunting and acquiring pin point accuracy with every rifle or handgun I owned. Then one day something happened that took away every desire to kill an animal ever again. I invite you to click on the link below for my story named “The Last Hunt” on the blog. It will explain everything. Scroll down the page to the story.
http://garysoutdoorwanderings2.blogspot.com/search?q=The+Deer

I’m going to say something here that will make you gasp. I submit to you that in these current times it is necessary for wildlife to sacrifice certain numbers of their population to hunting in order for them to survive in healthy numbers and allow for species perpetuation. You see, wildlife habitat has diminished over the past century to a point where it is today which is a miniscule of what it once was. In many cases the habitat cannot support certain species of wildlife due to the prolific fashion in which they propagate. The scientific reasoning is far greater than I care to get into for this writing. Human habitation is the primary culprit. Pesticides, chemicals and the cutting of trees and land clearing have removed much habitat and have decimated many species. Swamps and wetlands have been drained for all the Wallmarts across this country. Even the addition of the quadrabillions of miles of asphalt for roads and parking lots has added a tremendous detrimental effect on habitat. Where does the water run to as it washes off the cement and black top? Left unmanaged and unprotected the wildlife and habitat would have disappeared many years ago.

Three examples of bird species that would not be here today without sound management are the sandhill and whooping cranes and the bald eagle. Pesticides almost drove all three into extinction. Again, this explanation about wildlife is a very simple example of events that negatively impacted the above mentioned critters as well as many other animal species. Remember the ivory billed woodpecker? Gone. Its habitat was totally destroyed.

Enter the game commissions across the country. I’m from Pennsylvania so I’ll mention the PA. State Game Commission. This is Tennessee so we’ll highlight The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. The National Park Service has its own management program to protect and serve wildlife. The agencies go on and on at the state and government levels. They have been developed over many years to oversee and act as stewards for wildlife and wildlife habitat across this nation. These agencies have set boundaries between humans and wildlife. They even buy properties for the sole purpose of habitat creation. Without their management the wildlife would have been hunted or poisoned into oblivion years ago, as well as total destruction of wildlife habitat.

Whew! This is getting lengthy. I haven’t written myself into a corner yet so, that’s a good thing. What was I saying? Oh, ya – The obvious question you may ask is how are all these agencies funded? This is the treacherous part of the story. To protect the wildlife and the habitat from eradication it is necessary for the wildlife protectors (managers) to sacrifice a portion of the species population to hunting. There-in lays the cause for great animosity between those who enjoy the sport of hunting and those who enjoy looking at the wildlife without causing harm. In the end it all comes down to the dollar. It’s no secret that game commissions are funded by hunter and angler dollars secured in exchange for a license that extends a privilege to the purchaser to hunt or fish. These hunting and fishing licenses fund the purchasing of land for habitat restoration, restocking fish species, manage deer herds, turkey flocks, quail and on and on. Behind the scenes are trucks, boats, bulldozers and specialized equipment, biologists and instruments, management teams that keep their fingers on the pulse of the wildlife health. Some states collect a tax on sporting goods that is applied to wildlife preservation. These are the only sources of income available to fund the agencies that are entrusted to protect our wildlife resources across this country. In the end its sacrifice the few so that the many can survive for the future. I’ve never seen common ground achieved between the hunting and wildlife watching factions. This is where I have to be careful. Sensitive toes may be stepped upon. In actuality I am a wildlife watcher. I even save grasshoppers and ground moles and almost wrecked a truck once swerving to miss a wren who was about to hit my windshield.

Remember about the dollar mentioned earlier. Wildlife and bird watchers contribute somewhat by purchasing bird stamps. That is a commendable act. One problem with that is the money is probably applied to wildlife and bird activities in another state. There is no method established for them to contribute to their wildlife commissions other than contributions. Contributions won’t work because there is no mechanism in place to collect and distribute the contributed funds. Accountability is lacking. One can understand the frustration of non hunters. In their minds it’s always the hunters who win. They get what they want every time. Common sense tells us that the hunters are supplying the funds that fuel the agencies that protect our wildlife. Therefore they have the main say in what happens in the realm of hunting and fishing. They don’t always get their way but, they have a loud voice. I’ve said this before and here I go again. If the wildlife watchers want to have a loud voice and a strong push in what goes on with wildlife – they have to find a way to contribute to the cause in at least equal dollar amounts as the hunter faction. Looking at wildlife is a valid reason for an annual license just as hunting is. Those binoculars that you watch whooping cranes with didn’t have a wildlife tax associated with them. Guns do. That camera lens you just bought has no wildlife tax attached. That rifle scope does. Some have said they wouldn’t give money to an agency that supports hunting. Common sense enters again. Sometimes one must do something that isn’t popular or even distasteful in order to gain success in the endeavor. There are no other options. Contribute and have a major say in what happens to the wildlife you love or continue along current lines and repeat the same emotional grievances that are expressed year after year. The dollar will win out every time. I wish there was another way. If there is it’s remained elusive to me for years. I may be heading into a corner at this point. I better back away. Well, one more thing.

You may or may not remember the unpopular proposed sandhill crane hunt that caused uproar two years ago. It was postponed. It’s going to be on the table again for 2013. Has anything changed between the watchers and the hunters since then? I haven’t heard of anything. I expect the hunters will have their positions reinforced this time around. I suggested a way for the birder/watchers to contribute but it fell on deaf ears. I personally am against the killing of any cranes. This is where a difference lies between hunters and sportsmen even though they are considered one and the same. Anyone who would go afield to shoot a sandhill crane is not a sportsman in my book. It requires no skill at all to down one of those birds with a shotgun. Anyone who kills one and brags about it is nothing more than a braggart. And, anyone who has his smiling picture taken while holding up dead cranes by the neck for the camera is nothing more than a killer. A sportsman would vote against the hunting of cranes and would stay home or go fishing if the hunt is condoned. You might want to read my conversation with a sandhill crane: Bottom of the page.

http://garysoutdoorwanderings2.blogspot.com/search?q=Conversation+with+a+crane

I think I may be writing myself into a corner. Careless…
No, I’m not anti hunting. I’m not anti anything. I’m certainly not an activist. I will stand up for and take the part of the animals on most all occasions but, common sense dictates that I am understanding of the situation. There are tree huggers and activists who will go as far as to cause bodily harm to folks doing what’s necessary for the collective good of all, animal and human alike. Activists are passionate about their beliefs. So am I passionate about wildlife and habitat. I practically live with wildlife and I insert myself into their habitat on a daily basis. I learn from the critters I observe and can identify them by sounds they make. I can find them when I want. I sometimes feel I know what a critter is thinking through observation. But, I temper my passion with common sense. No, I’m not a hunter anymore. I don’t agree with the hunting processes these days. I don’t believe a deer should be ambushed from a tree and I don’t agree with shooting bears off a pile of putrid meat set out for bait. Hunting to me is feet on the ground and pitting skills against those of the quarry. One will win and one will fail. No. Its not for me. Nor is trapping, a long outlived, unnecessary and cruel method of capturing animals. I can’t condone it. I’ve withdrawn myself from any killing of critters and replaced the gun with the camera. I “capture” life long memories instead of causing the death of a beautiful animal. That’s my choice but, the sacrifice of a few is necessary for the better of the whole. That is where the “sportsman” does a service to our wildlife. I hope this made some sense to you. If nothing else, you know my position as pertains to hunting. Well, sort of.

So, you see, there are two separate terms that have the same meaning or, do they?