Turmoil and uncertainty surround us at every turn because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The negative impact on so many different entities and people is too numerous to count. There is, however, one positive occurrence because of the virus; game hunting could soon see an increase.
The reason for my prediction of a boost in future hunters is because New York State Department of Environment Conservation (NYS DEC), for the first time ever, is offering the hunter’s safety course online. At the same time, sparse store shelves serve as a reminder; people sometimes need to hunt for something to eat.
Those who sat through the classroom version of the hunter’s safety course know how momentous it is to have the opportunity to do this required course at home, at your own pace. The hunter safety course was originally a 3-hour evening class that, over the years, evolved into a full weekend ordeal that required driving far from home, to attend a class with limited seating.
March and April are normally the time of year hunting safety courses across the state are announced. This is designed to accommodate new hunters getting ready for the start of spring turkey season on May 1. It was once a family ritual in rural upstate New York for a parent or older sibling to take a child out for their first hunting experience in the spring when the weather is decent and the game not too large.
This year, because of social distancing rules, all in-person safety courses were canceled. NYS DEC acted quickly to get the online version of the hunter safety course rolled out to the public, and from what I’ve seen, it was flawless. This online version of the safety course might just be a kick-start to attract new, young hunters. Better yet, now could be the time for an adult to try out the hunting sport, knowing they don’t have to sit through the prerequisite structured class.
Hunting game may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Still, there are reasons the taking of game by hunting, fishing, or trapping is vital to maintain and to research our wild animal resources. First off, the state hunting license fees go right back to conservation efforts to safeguard fish, birds, and mammals in the forests and waters.
Another reason regulated hunting is important is to maintain a healthy population of wild animals. If not for hunters taking game, the primary interaction between humans and animals would be ‘car strikes’ on the highway. Killing a deer with a front bumper is never a clean and humane kill, and the chance of harvesting any edible food is slim.
If you ask a Conservation Officer about the importance of regulated hunting, you’ll likely hear “nature always creates balance one way or another.” If hunters don’t take a portion of the deer population humanely, Mother Nature will decimate the herd through starvation or disease – neither of which is motherly at all.
My home is within the city limits of Norwich, and it is common to see deer, fox, turkeys, and more in my back yard. The migration of animals into our urban area is not quite a nuisance here yet. In some communities, the presence of wildlife, mainly deer, is a significant issue. We’ve all seen the protests over professional hunters called into Syracuse paid to “thin the herd.”
Other communities (Ithaca was one) tried to capture and perform costly sterilization surgery on female deer. The result was the anesthesia for the surgery actually euthanized some of the animals. It turns out, hunting by firearm or bow, is the best way to maintain a healthy deer population. Wildlife is a renewable resource, and regulated hunting never caused a wildlife population to become threatened or endangered.
Chenango County was once a destination for hunters from all other parts of our state and beyond. Our vast state lands and an abundance of wildlife was the attraction. Hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and bars were filled with blaze-orange-wearing hunters who left behind thousands of dollars when they took their meat home. Those crude hunting camps have been turned over to new generations who remodeled the camps and now call them “weekend homes.”
It is not surprising hunting has declined. For years anti-gun violence groups in their efforts to publicize mass shootings have demonized all firearms, with sporting guns swept up in that sentiment. Surprisingly, a portion of the current safety course includes reminders for hunters not to incite anti-gun factions by displaying firearms, showing photos of legally taken game, or even bloodstained truck beds.
This is a perfect time to increase the number of hunters and sportsmen by taking the hunter safety course online. Even if you oppose hunting, consider taking the course to educate yourself on the importance of hunters taking game lawfully. Some people buy hunting licenses with no intention of ever hunting, but do so knowing the license fees go toward wildlife management.
Whatever your reason for taking the course, you need to act soon. Any New York State resident, age 11 and older, may take the course. The online version is scheduled to end on June 30, 2020. There is also a fee, but in the opinion of many, the price is worth the results. The $20 course fee would make a great gift for someone. To learn more, and sign up for the online course, visit: https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/92267.html