Education at the youth level is a good place to start

The old saying ďone bad apple spoils the whole bunchĒ is pretty appropriate for this column. The actions of a minority percentage in any group can disrupt and discredit the validity of its entirety.

Itís all too common for groups of people to be judged by the actions of a few out-of-line members these days. People such as this, care not about the well-being of the group and or anyone else around. Itís selfish people like them who can ruin everything for everyone else. Another common trait for groups these days is not taking any responsibility for their out-of-line members. Setting a standard of oneís rules of engagements as a group is the first step in organizing it. Every other process falls in line based on these rules.

This past weekend, Rachel and I took a hike in the Whaupaunaucau State Forest and as normal, there are a bunch of loose and bagged up deer carcasses dumped at the locking gate. The brand new stop sign was blown to smithereens from several shotgun blasts and there was a target stuck in between two tree trunks which would place rounds down range to where all vehicles approach from. This kind of stupidity and lack of respect for the land leaves all of us hunters looking like disrespectful scumbags. I donít do that kind of stuff and it burns me that I am viewed negatively at times because of them. What can be done to stop all of this?

Education at the youth level is a good place to start. Iím not positive about this, so donít quote me, but I imagine most schools never teach the need for hunting and trapping, in our human altered landscape. Allowing animals to run free and regulate themselves has proven to be a disaster as seen in areas like Ithaca that tried it and now have had to instill programs where hunters come in to drastically reduce deer numbers. Had the people that started these programs been raised with a firm foundation as to what hands-on conservation is, they would have never started them in the first place. The knowledge of how our deer herd, if kept healthy, stimulates our States economy by over a billion dollars a year, is need-to-know information. On top of that, you have to take into account all of the meat donated to food banks by hunters. Millions of needy and homeless are fed every year in our state alone by conscientious hunters and organizations dedicated to feeding people. All of this from a completely renewable and sustainable resource, but only if handled properly and respected by those involved. This starts with our children and needs to be properly addressed in the schools. These children are the future wildlife protectors, itís time they were told the truth, instead of being stuck in front of a television to watch an anti-hunter motivated movie like Bam, you know the rest.

The second way to help reduce the problem is to hold the group accountable. If you know someone or see someone dumping or shooting the place up, say or do something about it. It is a common misconception that all of these deer are dumped by city people. I would be willing to bet that more than half of it is being done by our friends and neighbors. If you have to, call them out on it and attempt to rationalize, but end with the statement that you donít have a problem turning someone in, to protect your rights and the validity of our group. No one is perfect and the way they were raised and taught to respect the outdoors may differ greatly from that of yours. Everyone has the ability to change and right the wrongs of the past. If you have any of your own, fix them and pass on how you did it, to others like your past self. This is a good start, now to the Stateís side of the bargain.

Our State is wildly understaffed in the form of Conservation Officers in the field. We donít have weigh-in stations or deer registration. I have never seen a game checkpoint aimed at catching poachers, and itís the opinion of everyone I know that most of these deer were harvested illegally. The State says their hands are tied, because of a lack of funding, so itís our responsibility as hunters to check those that do not care about us or the wildlife.

Letís just say that some of these disposed of deer are legally taken and the hunter had nowhere to dump the remains. This would be the instance for almost anyone not owning their own land or living in town. The landfill is a horrible place to discard the carcass, as the leftover tidbits help feed winter wildlife if put back in nature. I purpose that the state create designated dumping areas, that have cans for the plastic bags people transport the deer in. Hunters would be expected to cut away any areas expected to contain bullet fragments or lead. This goes for anyone that disposes of a gunshot animal anywhere. Birds of prey and other animals commonly contract lead poisoning from these little fragments when ingested. They should be placed in secluded areas that would avoid causing others to view them unwantedly. Preferably there would be a pit excavated by a backhoe, which would be backfilled in the spring, after the bones have been picked clean. I bet local hunting clubs would be happy to front the bill, so no reason for the State to turn it down.

Here we go, time to set a standard. Iím going to call this ďthe hunterís pledge.Ē

I am a hunter. I will never apologize for what I do. I understand scientifically and fundamentally why I should be proud to be one. I will pass on this truth and vow to use this information to combat anyone who would speak otherwise. I will help my fellow hunter, even if this means my plans will be ruined. I will respect anyone afield hunter or not, and carry myself as a non-threatening, safety-minded and conscientious gun handler. I will respect the land, its flora and fauna, water and air, but most of all, leave every wild place clean as or cleaner than I found it. I vow to utilize as much of my harvest as possible, and dispose of its remains in a safe and respectful manner. I will not allow anyone to damage or disrespect the wildlife or land without doing something about it. As a hunter, itís my duty to teach others, especially youth, as to ensure a bright future for hunters and wildlife to come. I am a hunter, a hands-on conservationist, a protector and perpetuator of wildlife, one whom loves the land, survives by its bounty and promises to protect it until the day I die!

Good wishes and if you canít repeat this pledge, make some changes so that you may.

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