Editorial: Hunters waning on Whidbey

When urban encroachment reaches a certain tipping point, common sense dictates that hunting has to end.

The question is, has Penn Cove reached that point?

Many Penn Cove area residents are upset about duck and seabird hunting that takes place in the cove from October through January. Noise and safety are major concerns, but so is the notion common among newcomers that they didn’t move to the island and buy an expensive view home to watch wildlife being slaughtered.

Ben Welton, one of the most avid hunters in the area, argues that hunters are regulated by federal, state and local laws, and he’s been following all the laws.

Adding to the discussion is Steve Ellis, a Whidbey Island Audubon Society member, who says the bird count in Penn Cove is down dramatically from past years. While he does not blame hunting for the decline, he does recommend a hunting moratorium in Penn Cove while scientists study the bird population.

Hunting is at time-honored tradition and a fine way for fathers to spend time with their sons for bonding and teaching the next generation to appreciate the natural world. But in many areas the activity is simply inappropriate.

The number of acceptable hunting areas on Whidbey Island grows fewer each year as more houses are built in woodlands and near wetlands. Most serious deer hunters have long since abandoned the island for Eastern Washington, and the finest duck hunting around is in the Skagit flats, not on Whidbey Island.

The days of hunting in Penn Cove are clearly numbered, although changing all the laws involved will take some time. Other areas of Whidbey Island, such as Deer Lagoon, are also experiencing their last days as a hunting destination due to development and changing attitudes.

It’s not yet time for hunters to entirely abandon Whidbey Island, but it’s a good idea to start scouting other areas of the state for the time when hunting ends here.

Better yet, try going hunting with a camera instead of a gun. It’s every bit as challenging and nobody complains when the shutter goes off.

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