Spring Gobbler Season Opens; Outdoors Legislation Updates
Published: May 3rd, 2012
By: George Franke

Spring gobbler season opens; outdoors legislation updates

Well the spring turkey season opened with an unwelcome downpour. I hope you got your bird before you got soaked. The rains sure made it quiet in the woods. One thing I've learned over the years is that when it is raining, the turkeys like to take to the fields. It seems their survival instinct tells them that the predators have a good chance of sneaking up on them in the quiet, wet woods. So they take to assembling in the fields feeding and displaying there. With their near 360-degree vision, they are not as easy a target for foxes and coyotes when they are in the open. Well, we've got the whole month ahead of us and surely some nice, warm, sunny days afield.

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A few reports on the legislative front. First, out of Washington, DC, as reported last week, the most significant pro-sportsmen’s legislation of the past 15 years is now in the U.S. Senate. The bill is now in the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Neither Sens. Gillibrand or Schumer sit on this committee. But it is still imperative that you contact the committee office and let them know that you are behind passage of the Sportsman's Heritage Act of 2012 that addresses top priority issues of the sportsmen’s community. Let them know that the bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support on Tuesday, April 17 by a vote of 274-14. The contact address is Energy and Natural Resources Committee Office, 304 Dirksen Senate Building Washington, DC 20510. Phone–(202) 224-4971 and fax–(202) 224-6163

A major focus of the organizations that helped craft H.R. 4089 is to prevent frivolous lawsuits that unfairly restrict the rights of hunters, anglers and shooters and limit wildlife conservation and management. Over the last decade anti-hunting groups and their trial lawyers have filed multiple suits in courts arguing that existing federal law does not allow, or requires restrictions on fishing, hunting, and shooting on federal public lands. Defending against these suits has cost state and federal wildlife agencies and sportsmen’s organizations millions of dollars. H.R. 4089 declares that federal BLM and Forest Service lands, which total over 700 million acres, be declared legally open to fishing, hunting, and shooting unless closed by specific agency action.

The bill also protects fishing tackle and ammunition from attacks. Recently, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government to force the U.S. EPA to ban the use of lead in ammunition and fishing tackle. Their claim misrepresented the intent of the Toxic Substance Control Act which was enacted in 1976 to allow the EPA to regulate new commercial chemicals entering the market and the distribution of existing chemicals found to pose unreasonable risks to public health or the environment. It was never intended to allow the regulation of ammunition and fishing tackle.

The 41 polar bear trophies were taken before the bear was listed as an endangered species (over strong scientific objections from the hunting and conservation community as well as the Canadian government) but could not be imported legally after the listing occurred. The provision enables hunters to bring home their taxidermy mounts and capes. It does not permit any additional polar bear trophies to be imported into the U.S. My good friend, Larry Steiner from Otego is one of these 41. So, it does affect us locally!

H.R. 4089 is supported by an array of sporting conservation groups including the United States Sportsman's Alliance, American Sportfishing Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Safari Club International, and many other prominent hunting organizations.

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In Albany, the anti-gunners in the democrat-controlled Assembly are trying to take away more of your personal rights. Assembly Bill 3292-A is flawed legislation that will make it a crime to leave an unlocked gun in your home. We have a constitutional right to defend our homes and our loved ones. In March, well over a thousand sportsmen rallied in Albany in a demonstration of solidarity for our Second Amendment freedom. If A.3292-A becomes law then an elderly homeowner, a single woman, or a husband defending his family will now have to be worried about where the state mandated key is to unlock the gun safe or cabinet when confronted by an intruder. The intent of the law is to make homes safer for children but far more children are harmed by accidentally ingesting household chemicals or medicines. What's next - state mandated locks for our kitchen and medicine cabinets? You can't legislate common sense. Call your local Assembly member and tell them to vote NO on A.3292-A.

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I attended the PRO-Crossbow Town Hall Meeting on April 27 in Central Square, held by the NY Crossbow Coalition. The meeting went well, although attendance was less than we had hoped for, but those in attendance were very supportive. One gentleman came from Tonawanda, a few came from the Rochester area, the Finger Lakes and the Utica area, and myself from Norwich

Assemblyman Donald Miller, a co-sponsor of A9682 spoke of the importance in writing the legislators, especially the leadership, Democrats and Republicans, the Chairs of the Environmental Conservation Committees and the Governor. It is also important that you write and make the effort to visit your legislator’s district office and let them know your position on the crossbow issue.

Mike Backus attended on behalf of the Assembly Minority Leader, Brian Kolb as well as Terry Wilbur who represented Assemblymen Will Barclay and Bob Oaks.

Bureau of Wildlife Chief Biologist Gordon Batcheller attended and spoke on behalf of the DEC. The DEC’s position is anything that helps put people in the field to enjoy a day of hunting is good for the sporting community in general and is what all sportsmen and women should be promoting. The DEC fully supports the expansion of crossbow use for everyone in all seasons archery equipment is permitted.

Rick McDermott, president of NYCC gave a short PowerPoint presentation on the sportsmen’s position on Crossbows based on among other things the Cornell Studies released in 2000 and 2011. The conclusion from the 2011 study states: “A majority of hunters – regardless of whether they currently hunt with a bow – support legalization of crossbows and their use during any season when bows currently can be used” The PowerPoint can be viewed from nycrossbowcoalition.com

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