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Rod, Gun and Game: America needs hunters to keep its residents safe from harm

SPRINGVILLE — When my bride and I lived in Florida in 1970 and 1971, alligators were nearly extinct. If an angler reported a gator sighting on the Blackwater River or Yellow River, it was the talk of the week at the tackle shop in Milton, the quiet panhandle town where we lived. For decades since then, alligators were protected by law and today, Fish and Wildlife reports show that more than five million alligators are alive and well in or near the Sunshine State.

Alligators and many other predatory wildlife species in America are out of control. Outside of Los Angeles, in a mountain-side community named Woodland Hills, my wife and I lived in a condominium community, for about six months in 2004. In the nearby Santa Monica and Santa Susanna mountains, hikers and bikers complained about movement alongside the brushy trails, as they hiked.

Newspaper articles back then reported that hikers thought the predators stalking prey might be ill-minded humans, but, as was discovered, they turned out to be mountain lions. The many mountain trails located in the beautiful countryside, up and down the coast from Los Angeles, have found that mountain lions were among noise-making predators in the brush and since then, many attacks have occurred. We have all read or heard about them. Mountain lions are protected from hunting in California.

Just as ducks, geese, raccoons, wolves, bears, cougars and wild pigs have grown to be nearly totally protected in many areas of America, the state of population balance between man and animal appears to be out of sync, in many of those same areas. Farmers out west have complained, for many years, about increasing wolf populations, out of control mountain lion families and the increasing number of killer grizzly bear reports, in several of our largest national parks.

Many wildlife protection groups have formed, to expressly remove hunting rights for many of the burgeoning species, and they have succeeded in convincing federal authorities to limit or restrict hunting in federal parks and many similar areas.

The result has been a rebound in species populations that are overloading our farms, highways, airport runways, backyards, hiking trails and many other places, allowing for a severely increased danger for people to be injured or killed.

The current issue of Time Magazine provides data and pictures, in a moving article that reports on the wildlife species population increase phenomenon and calls for the human solution, through the use of skilled hunting, especially in populated areas. The article cites how the high wildlife populations were nearly eliminated to extinction by over-hunting, about 100 years ago.

Conservation departments around the country formed through the 1920s and 1930s to help control overhunting, but then the Bambi movie was cited as possibly providing at least one emotional push to start thoughts about wildlife control, outside of the science of proper wildlife management.

Today, kids watch Saturday morning cartoons in which pigs, raccoons, wolves, mice, tigers, lions and bears are all friendly with each other and the animal society is depicted in social control. Little do the kids know that the bear and wolf would simply eat half of the wildlife species coming to breakfast in the cartoon, upon first sight. Instead, young children learn that all animals are apparent friends and they convince their moms and dads to join groups that oppose legal and controlled hunting. Animals in our outdoors are wild; they eat each other and they don’t share breakfast and dinner.

The point is that hunting is necessary and proper efficient use of the hunting heritage our forefathers passed on to their succeeding generations is not a bad thing, but a skill to be respected by all of our society. Not everyone in America can be a hunter. Hunters come from less than 10 percent of the population, in New York state. Effective hunting demands individual skill, courage, dedication to develop the necessary skills and budget the necessary finances, to accomplish effective and safe hunting.

Some call hunting a sport, but for many, it is an effective means to a fat-free, high-protein meat staple. In New York state, more than 1,000,000 whitetail deer are estimated to currently roam the state, with a decreasing hunter population of 600,000 that will kill about 250,000 deer, each year. That means that the deer population will continue to increase here; that’s a lot of deer ticks running around our urban backyards.

The answer could be as simple as asking hunters to hunt more and issue more permits for nuisance deer numbers, in problem areas of high traffic density. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation stepped on their own toes a bit, two years ago, when they decided in a new policy to charge non-lifetime licensed big game hunters a $10 fee for a doe permit. The state was looking to bag more funding for the piggy bank, but what resulted was a surprise to DEC.

Hunters decided they simply would not buy them. This resulted in a new policy, in which NYSDEC now sends out free doe permits, to selected hunters after Nov. 1 each year, and offers extra doe permits for Wildlife Management Areas where populations of people and deer are high.

While New York state does a good job with the science of wildlife management, with well-educated fish and wildlife biologists, the decreasing hunter population, over the last 25 years, has hurt harvest efforts.

Hunters and sportsmen licenses provide more funding for fish and wildlife management and training than any other group. Hikers, bikers, campers and many other outdoor groups pay nothing to enjoy the same lands that hunters pay to hunt and fish in. That seems unfair, especially when hunters donate more than 50,000 pounds of venison to needy food kitchens, every year. Hunters pay for the privilege to feed the hungry.

The Time Magazine article may help some of America understand the unprecedented wildlife predator populations we currently have, many of which can stalk humans, as well as smaller wildlife, like cows, sheep, dogs and cats.

We need hunters to keep our ecosystem in balance and our neighborhoods safe from natural wildlife predators, in many parts of our country. Hunters deserve more respect from all of us. Many communities now embrace their local hunter populations. America is changing. Common sense is an American legacy.

NYS muzzleloader season to begin

New York state big-game hunters will have another chance to bag their deer or bear, this fall, as the late archery season and muzzleloader season begins on Dec. 9. The regular firearms season for big game closes with the end of hunting hours on Dec. 8. Early indications are that the 2013 season has been about 10 percent less, in terms on number of deer harvested, but some very big deer were among those taken. The muzzleloader season and late archery season will run through sunset on Dec. 17. All hunters are reminded that a muzzleloading license or archery license, in addition to their regular big-game hunting license, is needed to hunt, during the late season. All other rules for NYS deer hunting also apply.

Outdoor calendar

Dec. 7-8: Niagara Frontier Gun Show, 11177 Main St., in Clarence, in the events building. For more information, visit www.nfgshows.com.

Dec. 8: Last day of New York state Southern Zone big-game firearm season.

Dec. 9-17: NYS late archery and muzzleloading season, for deer and bear, sunrise to sunset.

Dec. 13: Western New York Safari Club International 19th Annual Game Dinner, Michael’s Banquet Facility, Hamburg. 4 p.m. start. For more information, call 984-2773.

Jan. 4: Erie County Trappers Association Fur Handling Seminar, Collins Conservation Club, 2633 Conger Road, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., free. For more information, call 337-2556.

Jan. 11: Fundraiser for Ray Markiewicz, who is fighting leukemia, Eden Legion Post No. 880, 1-6 p.m. For more information, call Jim Bailey at 649-9714.

Send information for inclusion in the Forrest Fisher Column outdoor calendar, 10 days in advance, to nugdor@yahoo.com.
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