By Doris Lin
Most people think of wildlife management agencies as serving the ecosystem, interfering minimally and mainly to preserve wildlife. These agencies do have programs to protect endangered species and to protect habitat in general. But instead of managing wildlife solely for the optimal health of the ecosystem, state wildlife management agencies also manage wildlife for recreation. The agencies have a financial incentive to do so.
Deer as a Resource
To these agencies, deer are a resource, not sentient beings with their own inherent rights. The resource must be conserved, or used wisely, so that there will be plenty of deer for future generations of hunters. As a result, deer management is usually designed to keep the deer population high. For example, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s mission is:
To conserve, enhance, and restore Arizona’s diverse wildlife resources and habitats through aggressive protection and management programs, and to provide wildlife resources and safe watercraft and off-highway vehicle recreation for the enjoyment, appreciation, and use by present and future generations.
The desire for a high deer population led Pennsylvania and other states to stock deer in the early 20th century.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources states in their annual report: “We rank first in the country for the highest single year deer harvest on record and are number one for deer harvest over the past decade. All of us work hard to keep it that way.”
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation takes the “needs” of hunters into account when determining their goals for deer management:
The goal is to balance deer with their habitat, human land uses and recreational interests. Ecological concerns and the needs of landowners, hunters, and other interest groups must be considered.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission also considers the desires of hunters in their deer management strategy:
Managing Pennsylvania’s deer herd is an enormous undertaking that frequently includes input from everyone from hunters and naturalists to farmers, foresters and suburbanites. Each has his or her own idea about how many deer we should have. As a general rule, hunters want as many as possible. Still others, particularly people made a living from their land, prefer fewer deer. But history has shown that no one group gets its way entirely.
These are just a few examples of state wildlife management agencies stating that they manage the deer population in a way that increases recreational hunting opportunities for hunters.
Most people find it incredible that their state wildlife management agencies are trying to keep deer populations high when so many residents complain that there are too many deer, but the agencies have financial incentives for pleasing hunters. The agencies depend on sales of hunting licenses for their funding, and hunters like a high deer population. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources states on their website:
Michigan hunters have supplied millions of dollars for the development of hunting regulations based on scientific data. They have also provided funds to enforce those rules in the field. Millions of dollars have been contributed for the acquisition of land and for the improvement of deer habitat on those lands. In many cases, legislative action to protect deer, acquire land, and improve deer range has been initiated by hunters themselves. This partnership among the Michigan deer hunter, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Michigan Legislature speaks well of our ability as citizens to work together through state government to manage wildlife.
Also, the federal Pittman-Robertson Act gives money from the excise taxes on sales of guns and ammunition to state wildlife agencies to increase wildlife populations. Pittman Robertson funds can also be used for land acquisition, hunter safety education and for the construction and maintenance of target ranges. To be eligible for Pittman-Robertson funds, a state must not divert money from the sales of hunting & fishing licenses outside of the state’s wildlife management agency.
How Do The Agencies Increase the Deer Popuation?
To increase the deer population, sections of forest in state wildlife management areas are clear-cut, to create the “edge habitat” that is preferred by deer. For example, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recommends for deer management:
Openings in a forested area encourage the production of preferred food plants and may compensate for yearly and seasonal fluctuations in food supplies, like acorns. Natural openings in forests should be maintained. Openings of one to three acres in size should be created, and be strategically located throughout an area to provide diversity and edge.
State wildlife management lands are also sometimes leased to farmers, and the farmers are required to plant deer-preferred crops and leave a certain amount of their crops standing so that the deer will be fed and reproduce more. Sometimes, the state wildlife management agencies will plant “deer mix” themselves, to increase the deer population. For example, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources explains,
Portions of the area are managed under a farm lease program to promote upland wildlife habitat and to demonstrate the potential for producing wildlife on farm lands. Site personnel supplement natural habitats with tree and shrub plantings, native grass seedings, specialty food crop production and succession control.
Of course, animal rights activists oppose hunting and oppose wildlife management that artificially increases the deer population. As long as state wildlife agencies are funded through sales of hunting licenses and Pittman-Robertson funds, they will have an incentive to manage deer as a source of recreation and they will continue to be at odds with animal rights activists.
Red-tailed hawks and other raptors fall as unintended or illegal targets each October as upland game bird season resumes in Montana. Those that survive the blast occasionally wind up in the care of raptor rehabilitators like Rob Domenech of Wild Skies Raptor Center.
“Most of it goes untold because the birds just drop and that’s it – end of story,” Domenech said. “But last week, I got a call from the manager at the Missoula landfill who had a raptor there. He found it right near the scale house. We think it was shot in that area, because it couldn’t have gone too far with those pellets all over its body. It was lead shot, probably for upland game birds.”
The hawk is slowly recovering at a clinic on Missoula’s south side under the care of Brooke Tanner, a licensed raptor rehabilitator.
“This one was the worst I’ve seen in all my years doing rehab,” Tanner said. “Usually it’s one piece of metal. This bird had nine. It must have been far enough away because the injuries were superficial. But the bird had been on the ground several days, and the wounds smelled pretty bad. We’ll let the bones heal and treat for infection before we try to dig out the pellets.”
Tanner has also treated owls, crows and numerous other non-game birds for firearms injuries. The red-tailed hawk with the blasted wing feathers was still able to fly, so she left it in the wild.
Federal law and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibit the killing of migratory raptors such as red-tailed and rough-legged hawks, and all owls. Crows don’t have that kind of protection, but most of the corvids Tanner’s seen were shot inside Missoula’s city limits, where discharging firearms is illegal.
“I get several crows every year when the babies are fledging and they’re pretty vocal,” Tanner said. “People don’t like the noise.”
With raptors, the problem may be a mistaken assumption that the birds of prey compete with two-legged hunters for pheasants and other game birds.
“Rough-legged hawks are not predators of upland birds,” said Ben Deeble, president of the Big Sky Upland Bird Association. “They have a real small foot, and eat nothing but smaller rodents. Red-tailed hawks are more generalist, and they catch the occasional upland bird. But we don’t consider hawks to be a predation problem where there’s good habitat.”
Most hawks seek mice and voles that compete with pheasants for forage in fields and meadows. Golden eagles will kill game birds, but there aren’t many of them in the Missoula or Mission valleys where bird hunters are active.
Pheasant season started Oct. 12, while other upland game birds like grouse and partridge have been legal since Sept. 1.
“Among some, there’s sentiment raptors are big birds that kill things and don’t have much other purpose,” Domenech said. “There’s some anti-predator sentiment out there. It’s disheartening someone would kill these birds. This (birdshot hawk) is a young bird, and they have 60 (percent) or 70 percent mortality in their first year of life anyway. It’s tough out there if you’re a raptor. All it takes is one bad person with a shotgun and they take out a lot of hawks.”
[This isn't all that surprising considering the attitude of the Washington Department of Wildlife Assistant Director quoted in an earlier post entitled, What Really Motivates a Hunter.]
Four Washington State legislators are crafting a letter questioning the State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s decision to support federal delisting of the gray wolf.
One of the four, Senator Kevin Ranker, said he was shocked a state agency would advocate dropping federal protection of wolves when a recent poll shows the vast majority of Washington State residents support it.
Wolves are currently protected under both the state and federal endangered species acts.
State Fish & Wildlife Director Phil Anderson argued the state protection is more than adequate and the federal listing only gets in the way of Washington State’s approved plan for wolf management. He said he has clearly stated on several occasions that WDFW supports federal delisting but is committed to protecting wolves until they fully recover in the state.
Ranker said he can find no evidence WDFW tried to gather public input before sending a manager to a hearing in Washington D.C. to formally support the delisting.
Anderson said the state has developed a comprehensive protection plan scientifically based on the state’s unique wolf population.
Whenever an anti asks a hunter why they like to kill animals the answer (unless the hunter is exceptionally evil or unrepentant) is some variation of, “I don’t actually enjoy killing, I do it for the meat”…or, “to control their population”… or some other variation of those validations they think will sound plausible or palatable.
But the truth is not nearly so toothsome—they do it because they get off on taking and possessing another’s life.
You don’t have to lurk in those dark, seedy hunter chat rooms, Facebook pages or message boards to learn how hunters really think or how they view the animals they lust after. One need only pick up a Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife game regulations handout, available at any sporting goods store or rural mini market, and read the following featured article by a WDFW Wildlife Program Assistant Director:
Sportsmanship Evolves through Five Stages of Hunting
by Nate Pamplin
In hunter education, we talk about the five phases that hunters commonly pass through and how our definition of success in the field evolves over time. I think that discussion is valuable, because it provides an important perspective on our approach to the sport.
In the first stage of the five-step progression, most new hunters are primarily focused on bagging their first game animal. My first big game animal was a small ‘forked-horn’ sitka black-tailed buck on Kodiak Island, Alaska–and I couldn’t have been more proud.
In phase two, the goal shifts to filling bag limits. The definition of a good day for a hunter in this phase would be taking all four forest grouse allowed, not just two.
The third stage is what is called the “trophy phase,” where success is derived by harvesting an animal with a large rack or trophy score. A hunter in this phase may pass immature animals waiting for the opportunity to harvest a trophy for the wall.
A fourth phase is limited-weapon phase, when hunters who have had success with modern firearms put down their rifle to pursue game through traditional implements that present more of a challenge.
Finally, we arrive at the fifth stage–the sportsman phase. Here, hunters find satisfaction in all aspects of hunting, whether sighting-in their rifle with their friends, waiting on a stand for a buck to pass by, or recounting hunting stories with family and friends over a bowl of venison stew.
An important aspect of the sportsman phase—and I’d advocate for every phase—Is sharing the rich tradition of hunting with others.
I ask you to consider your role in promoting the hunting heritage in Washington. Have you introduced hunting to a colleague from work who may have never been hunting before? Have you invited your niece to the shooting range? Do you have time to volunteer with a local hunter-education team? Did you mail a thank-you note to the landowner who afforded you access to their
ranch last fall?
Hunters don’t have to move through every stage of the sport before entering the sportsman phase. All of us share a passion for Washington’s hunting heritage, and it’s important we all do our part to keep this tradition alive during the coming season.
It’s uncanny how much the statement above mirrors this quote by another trophy taking expert on the subject—the prolific serial killer, Ted Bundy, who told the authors of The Only Living Witness, from his cell on death row:
“At each stage of the process the individual’s feelings would be different. And when he’s 15 it’d be a much more mystical, exciting, experience…than when he’s 50. And when—even within that given hunting expedition—the feeling of sighting the animal would be different than shooting it or showing it to your buddy. Or putting it in the trunk and taking it home and butchering it and having it for dinner…And that’s the way some guys may approach killing their fellow human beings.”
HUNT Act for Hunters. Legislation introduced Thursday in the U.S. Senate would increase hunting and angling access on public lands and bolster the nation’s outdoor recreation economy. The Hunt Unrestricted on National Treasures Act, or “HUNT Act,” introduced this afternoon by Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, directs federal agencies to inventory all public lands greater than 640 acres where hunting and fishing are legal but inaccessible with the goal of expanding access for members of the public. The legislation finances land acquisitions from willing sellers through a small percentage of Land and Water Conservation Fund monies. Heinrich introduced similar legislation in 2012, when he was a member of the House of Representatives. Some sportsmen’s organizations hailed the measure as a way of maintaining and expanding sportsmen’s access to public lands that provide important fish and wildlife habitat and offer valuable opportunities for hunting and fishing.
Read more about the HUNT Act: http://marcusschneck.com/2013/09/26/hunt-act-would-seek-hunter-access-to-landlocked-public-lands/
The following blog post is from the Friends of Edie Road (a group of bird watchers and wildlife watchers who are proposing repurposing the Edie Road area to non-hunting for three primary reasons:
1. Having hunters and other visitors present in quantity at the same time, in the same area, is an accident waiting to happen.
2. The growing base of non-hunting visitors is seriously under-represented in the WDFW land use decision making process. There are many more birders and photographers visiting the site than hunters.
3. This site is unique for birding because it is flat, easily accessible, and most important: a large variety of bird species love it.
August 21st, 2013
Conservation, according to my dictionary, is the act of conserving; prevention of injury, decay, waste, or loss; preservation, as conservation of wildlife.
But if you hunters look out along the paved road and parking area, you will see that there is an new and growing group of real conservationists emerging. They have invaded your hunt club by posting their yellow Discover Pass inside their windshield. They don’t carry guns but field guides, spotting scopes, and cameras. They exhibit a combination of awe and respect for the wild creatures they encounter, and shock and dismay at seeing them needlessly killed.
Some hunter apparently couldn’t wait for a pheasant so he unloaded his 12 gauge on the Discover Pass sign at Eide Road – mid-August 2013.
This is a letter I sent to the Daily Astorian, a local paper on the Oregon coast:
Cannon Beach used to be a pretty peaceful place. It was a nice romantic getaway or a great place to bring the entire clan. Haystack Rock appears on more post cards and magazine covers than any other feature on the entire Oregon coast. Most people come to Cannon Beach to enjoy quiet walks, hoping for a glimpse of some of the native wildlife. It’s not the kind of place folks expect to run into cammo-clad hunters with shotguns or compound bows stalking area’s half-tame animals.
But when the town’s parks and community services committee wanted to limit the local hunting season to only one month, the Oregon state Department of Fish and Wildlife instead set FIVE seasons there, totaling 90 days (“Hunting dates for Ecola reserve are expanded,” Aug. 5). And although the town of Cannon Beach wanted to restrict hunting to bows and arrows and shotgun slugs, the ODFW informed them that buckshot would be allowed as well.
Now any hunter who wants to can blast a 700 pound bull elk with a shotgun. What a mess that will be for some sightseeing family to come across! And how many elk or deer, who were nearly out of range at the time they were shot at, will escape with gaping, bleeding, lead-filled holes in them?
This is just another example of state game departments pushing their weight around, defying the will of the people and town councils, not to mention the will of the wildlife. Who do game regulators think they are, God? Sorry, but I hear that position has already been filled.
……..Instead of printing that, here’s the letter they chose to print…….
I am writing in response to the article The Daily Astorian regarding the debate on the upcoming hunting season in the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve (“Expanded hunting season remains in Ecola Creek Forest Reserve,” Aug. 7).
I am proud to be an avid hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman and was very upset to read some of the comments made during the city council meeting by Cannon Beach resident Jan Seibert Wahrmund.
The topic being discussed was the hunting area that borders the non hunting area. Wahrmund’s quote was, “Hunters don’t always know where they are. They may have been drinking.”
I understand that not everyone is pro hunting, and I respect their beliefs and opinions. But this comment is ignorant and offensive. To stereotype all hunters as beer-guzzling hillbillies who get drunk and shoot at everything that moves is unfair and misinformed.
Hunters and all outdoorsman are the biggest proponents for conservation and safety. Hunters are the reason that such strict game management laws are in place. A true hunter and outdoorsman has a great deal of respect for all wildlife and everything in its surrounding area.
Hunters and hikers can and always have been able to share the forest without issues. Hunting is a tradition that has been passed down through generations, and we are very passionate about it. It is much more than just harvesting an animal. It’s about enjoying the outdoors and wildlife, and time spent with friends and family.
I hope that Wahrmund takes the time to consider how offensive and misleading her comments were before the next time she “shoots off” her stereotyping and unfair opinions at a council meeting. On behalf of all responsible hunters, please consider how your actions affect others. Thank you.
….My favorite line in his letter: “Hunters and hikers can and always have been able to share the forest without issues.” Hasn’t he heard about all the hunting accidents that happen each year?
Cannon Beach, nestled along the northern Oregon Coast, used to be a pretty peaceful place. It’s a nice, romantic getaway or a great place to bring the entire clan. Haystack Rock, perched immediately off CB’s two mile stretch of sand, appears on more post cards and magazine covers than any other feature on the entire coast.
Folks stay there to escape the noise and manic pace of Portland or Seattle, enjoying quiet walks, hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the native wildlife. A small herd of elk lives there and can sometimes be seen taking their own cautious walks out on the beach in the early morning, foraging on the thick, leafy salal bushes in Ecola State Park or resting on the grass in city parks at the edge of town, adding to the natural character of area.
Cannon Beach is not the kind of place people expect to run into cammo-clad Elmers with shotguns or compound bows stalking the area’s half-tame animals.
But when the town’s parks and community services committee wanted to limit the local hunting season to only one month, the Oregon state Department of Fish and Wildlife told them they could not limit the hunting season and instead set five seasons there, totaling 90 days. And although the town of Cannon Beach wanted to restrict hunting to bows and arrows and shotgun slugs, the ODFW informed them that buckshot would be allowed as well.
Yes, you read that right—now any hunter who wants to can blast a 700 pound bull elk with a shotgun. What a mess that would be for some sightseeing family to come across. And how many elk and deer, who were nearly out of range at the time they were shot at, will escape with a gaping, bleeding, lead-filled hole in them?!!
According to the almighty ODFW, hunting on the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve will be extended from one month to 92 days, beginning Aug. 24. And rather than being limited to one season from Sept. 28 through Nov. 1, five seasons will be allowed through Dec. 8!
The great and powerful ODFW have decreed that hunting dates in the reserve shall be:
• Aug. 24 through Sept. 22: bow hunting for deer and elk.
• Sept. 28 through Nov. 1: shotgun hunting for buck deer.
• Nov. 9 through Nov.12: shotgun hunting for bull elk.
• Nov. 16 through Nov. 22: shotgun hunting for bull elk.
• Nov. 23 through Dec. 8: bow hunting for deer.
This is just another example of state game departments pushing their weight around, defying the will of the people and town councils, not to mention the will of the wildlife. Who do “game” regulators think they are, God? Sorry, but I hear that position has already been filled.