Monday, January 18, 2016

The right to hunt and be safe

With the Maine legislature beginning and as always there will be hunting and fishing issues that come up, I wrote this article for The Liberty Project about a bill in Wisconsin that would prevent anti-hunters from documenting hunters when they are in the woods.  The article was originally posted on October 28, 2015 here.


Why Wisconsin's right to hunt bill is necessary


I can count on one hand the number of photos of my son on social media. You will never read the full name of the friends that I hunt with and I am more likely to take a photo of the trees than photos of an outing with my Dad. I am overly cautious for my safety and theirs.
Last year, I volunteered with Maine’s fight against an out-of-state anti-hunting group as we fought to protect our bear hunting management practices. It was messy. It was personal. It included death threats against some of Maine’s best biologist and wildlife management leaders. Death threats from people who would rather have a fellow human die than an animal that provides meals. These people had their faces and names in the public realm because of the referendum, but can you imagine having your photo or a relative’s photo out there with identifying information attached, all because you choose to hunt?
In Wisconsin, Rep. Adam Jarchow recently put forward a Right to Hunt bill that would protect hunters, fishermen and trappers on public land from being harassed and having their photos taken. It is controversial, but I totally get it and agree. Being on public land in general poses risks: other hunters, trappers, hikers, campers... you never know who you could encounter. The two bear-bait sites that I hunt over are on public land. Last year, three people from out of state decided that they wanted to camp there without knowing that we were running the bait sites with huge bears showing up.
My hunting partner walked over to find them, thinking that maybe they were just there to forage. What he found was an illegal campfire and camp site. The confrontation was not a good one and we had to call the ranger to come take care of the fire. While we waited, I snapped several photos of their vehicle and license just in case. They packed up their things, got written up for the illegal fire and left. Less than an hour later, they drove up and down the road honking their horn. They did this until dark, ruining our chances of getting a bear and demonstrating a perfect case of hunter harassment.
I write a blog and I write for a regional magazine. But I’ve never posted or published the photo of their Jeep and New Jersey license plate because there was no need for it. It served no purpose. After seeing what anti-hunters can and will do when it comes to their thoughts on hunting, I don’t think that I would trust them to keep my photo offline if the roles were reversed.
The Wisconsin bill is trying to keep those who are hunting, trapping and fishing on public land safe from attacks and further harassment. I don’t think that is wrong. In Maine, the harassment laws are vague but cover the same things: no one can interfere with your preparations for hunting, actual hunting and trapping or any equipment that must be left in the woods (like a bait site.) During the referendum, the Maine Office of Tourism released a study that found bear hunting to contribute $53 million annually to Maine’s economy. Guides spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours setting up, managing and hunting from their bait sites. Anti-hunters being allowed to post photos from bait sites could lead to sites being tampered with or ruined and the target animals being driven away. For guides who rely on public land, having an extra bit of security can mean more money in their pockets at the end of the day.
For those who do not hunt, I know the proposed bill seems ridiculous. It’s public land and everyone has a right to be there and, for the most part, there are no altercations or big issues that come up. It’s a respectable relation between hunters and non-hunters. Sadly, that is not always the case. What this bill and others similar bills already in place are trying to do is protect outdoorsmen and women from harassment in any way, shape or form.
We just want to put food on the table. We should not have to worry about our photos or hunting areas ending up on targeted lists from anti-hunters.

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