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Nov 04

Hunting Access and Etiquette

One of the more common laments I hear from hunters that were not born with a silver spoon in their mouths is that it is hard to find a place to hunt. Another is their children are just not interested and would rather play on the computer. As the numbers of hunters continue to decline (According to license sales in most states) we need to take along hard look at what we can do to increase our numbers and that means getting more children interested.

Landowners and outfitters can help the situation out immensely by letting in a few kids (Properly supervised by adults) without charging them. This will give them a chance to experience hunting without mom and dad having to shell out lots of money that they probably don’t have.

As Christians we are taught to give something back. The generally accepted number is 10% and while I am not going to get into a sermon that is open to discussion as the only place it is listed is the Old Testament. In the New Testament Jesus simply says to be a cheerful giver. To that end and using the Old Testament guideline if you are able to have 10 hunters on your land in a season consider letting one of them be a kid that you let in for nothing. If you are fortunate to be an outfitter with spots for 30 possibly let in three. If you can only let in five maybe let 1 in every other year (I am talking about deer and elk hunting here if birds and the season is 60 days long maybe let kids in 6 of those days) The point is that if we can get more kids interested in hunting we will have a bright future. If not, the anti’s will be more than happy to keep telling our kids why hunting is evil.

I want to share the following story to illustrate my point. When I am not hunting, shooting, reloading or working I have another hobby. Antique tractors and hit and miss engines. When, on rare occasions, I get the chance to combine the two it is hog heaven for Dave.

About a year ago I got a chance to attend an auction where there were over 40 firearms up for sale as well as 5 hit and miss engines and over 50 antique tractors. I was able to pick up a Ruger #1 375 H&H and a Stover hit and miss engine very reasonably so it was a good day. Toward the end of the day they got around to the tractors, most of which had been sitting outside for decades and were in poor shape at best. The one I was really gunning for was a late teens Hart-Parr. The problem was the engine was stuck and getting it loaded was going to be nothing short of a nightmare in the field full of mud it was located in. I was 100 miles from home without a winch. While I was standing there considering my options the decision got taken out of my hands.

A father and his son were looking at it and the kid, who was probably all of 8, could hardly contain his excitement. All he could talk about was restoring it and if dad thought they would be able to win it. Fortunately none one else was in ear shot so nobody else new how much both dad and son wanted it. I made up my mind right there that I was not going to bid but I wanted to see how it went for the father and son. By the time the auction moved up to that tractor dad was able to get him to calm down. This was one of the last tractors sold so most people had blown their wad and interest in this one was pretty low. When the hammer fell at only $350 I was shocked as many of the parts would sell for that all by themselves. Once they won this kid did a celebration dance that would have gone viral on You-Tube in a heartbeat had anyone been recording it. For the next several years that father and his son will be able to enjoy working together on the project at least partially because I decided not to bid.

Companies, landowners and the like need to get every dollar they can out of the land today to try and eke out a profit but if it comes at the expense of the future then there will be nothing for the future generations. I want to end this part by giving congratulations to the State of Washington. I know I do this very rarely but in this case it was well deserved.

This year one of the large timber companies decided they were going to charge money for access to their land for hunters. One of the reasons they get a tax break is so that people can have access except when the timber is actually being harvested. Since trees take at least 50 years to reach maturity the land is not doing much the rest of the time. To the credit of those in State Government they pointed out that the company gets millions of dollars in tax breaks every year in part to allow recreational access to their lands. If they are going to start charging then the tax break would be removed and the land reclassified as recreational. While the vote is still out it appears as if the fee will not be charged and people will be able to hunt without the fee being charged.

Part of the reason people have issues getting access is what irresponsible hunters have done in the past. The rule of if you pack it in pack it out applies here. Don’t leave your trash lying all over the place and if you have to dig a hole to use a latrine do it. Don’t leave little white flags all over the landscape.

If a farmer has given you access and you have a successful day offer him or her part of a back strap or a front quarter. It has been my experience that they will usually not accept either because they already have enough or because they don’t care for game meat but you still need to make the offer if they accept be prepared to follow through. Most farmers and landowners I know are handshake type people and if your word isn’t any good they will generally not have anything to do with you.

If access means you have to open three gates then make sure you close every one behind you both on the way in and on the way out. Nothing will get access denied like the memory of having to chase down 20 cows or horses if you are the farmer. My friends and I once irritated a farmer by leaving a gate in the position we found it. When we came up to the gate it was open so we left it that way. When we came back he was up there shutting it and gave us a good chewing out for leaving it open. We tried to tell him that was how we found it but it took a couple years for the memory of that one to fade enough for us to get back in.

I guess the best way to be sure is to respect the other guy’s property. If you wouldn’t want it on yours why would he want it on his? Find out what is expected up front and that will prevent future misunderstandings. I once had an offer to hunt deer on an island where they are literally overrunning the place. There are no predators and most of the lots are too small to allow hunting or the Peta types that own most of the land won’t allow hunting. This lady was tired of losing roses, vegetables and fruit trees to the herds of blacktail. The problem it the island is only accessible by ferry so it will take a good 1 to 3 hours to get back off with your deer. This means that it is imperative you gut it and do some work in the field to keep the meat from spoiling. She insisted that I take the whole thing away. It is hard enough to pack a deer out of the woods without having to pack out all of the guts once they have been separated. In the end it just wasn’t worth it to me so I declined the invitation. If I had agreed I would have done it just to keep the access. I still have the invitation under those terms but the older I get the less likely it becomes I will say yes.

The point to all this is, if we will observe some basic rules of etiquette and treat the other guy how we wish to be treated then everybody will be able to hunt in the years to come. If we continue down the path where hunting increasingly becomes a sport for the wealthy then the sport we all love is doomed to a slow death by indifference and the whims of politicians.

 

 

 

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