Opinion

EDITORIAL: Hunters need to get active

A great interest in hunting on the island was revealed last week when a meeting hosted by Sheriff Mike Hawley attracted some 150 people, most of whom were hunters concerned that their right to hunt was in jeopardy.

That turned out not to be the case. Despite the presence of the county commissioners and a state senator, nobody threatened to reduce the amount of territory available to waterfowl and deer hunters. On the other hand, the fact hunting is in jeopardy is so obvious that it hardly needed saying. As the island continues its rapid population growth, hunting territory is being divided into 5 acre parcels, areas surrounding wetlands are becoming more densely populated, and a growing number of recreational trails bring hikers, bicyclists and equestrians into contact with hunters who not that many years ago had the woods to themselves.

As a result, the number of hunting-related complaints to the Sheriff’s Office increases every year, as the minority of irresponsible hunters — or even poachers — fire their guns in unsafe places or during illegal hours, and leave empty shell casings and other litter in their wake.

Hunting is a tradition generally handed down from father to son that is worth saving on the island. It teaches gun safety, respect for wildlife and the environment, and responsible behavior while keeping down the pesky deer population. But it won’t continue for many more years unless hunters get busy — and that doesn’t mean just attending the occasional meeting called by the sheriff.

Hunters need to organize. They need to work with county government and the public on what areas are still safe to hunt. To expand hunting opportunities, hunters should contact large private landowners and make agreements with them — allow us to hunt, and we’ll keep your property clean, your deer population down, we’ll keep an eye out for poachers and chase off irresponsible hunters. A permit system could be devised to assure landowners that hunters carrying the permit are responsible people.

Many of the people moving to the island are from urban areas and have no experience with hunting or firearms. They need to be educated in the rural ways and assured that hunting is no threat to their persons or property. If hunters don’t do this, nobody else will.

If short, the future of hunting in Island County is in the hands of the hunters. If they sit back and do nothing their hunting days are numbered.

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