While hunting potential blossoms in The Garden State, nonresident hunting may wither in Big Sky Country.
For years, the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (Lisa Jackson, who is now running the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington) and the Governor prevented a much-needed bear hunt to manage a burgeoning bear population. Those folks are now gone, and the present Governor, Chris Christie, has been a breath of fresh air for citizens. Not only does he make sound fiscal decisions, but he is also making common sense wildlife decisions.
After years of frustration for the state's wildlife agency, Christie and sane legislators approved a six-day December bear control hunt. Then he signed a bill that allowed bowhunters to hunt within 150 feet of private homes, instead of the former 450-foot distance. Although such a law has been in place for bowhunters in Pennsylvania since 2006 with no safety problems, doomsday antihunters said that this change would endanger people. They forgot to mention that bowhunters can hunt 150 feet from buildings only on land where they have written permission from the homeowner to hunt. Schools are still off limits to this distance, and gun hunters must still maintain the 450-foot distance.
Few people have noted one major plus that results from this legislation -- the large amount of hunting land the change opens up. A circle with a radius of 450 feet deprives hunters of access to 14.6 acres, while a circle with a 150-foot radius prevents them from hunting only 1.6 acres. So, if bowhunters can now hunt within 150 feet of 10,000 homes, they have gained access to 228 square miles that were closed to bowhunting prior to the change. For 50,000 homes, they've gained access to 1,141 square miles of hunting land. Thanks, Governor!
Montana Outfitters Feel The Pressure
As I write this in early September, Montana outfitters are fighting Initiative 161 that will appear on the November 2010 ballot. That initiative would eliminate outfitter-sponsored nonresident big game and deer combination hunting licenses. Currently, about 5,500 big game combination licenses and 2,250 deer licenses are available through outfitters for nonresidents.
If outfitters lose the outfitter-sponsored licenses, they will no longer be guaranteed of booking clients for any given big game seasons. That fact, combined with the overall down economy, could spell a big hit for Montana outfitters.
What has spawned this initiative? Guaranteed outfitter-sponsored licenses, even though more expensive than general nonresident licenses, upset many nonresident hunters who do not use guides and thus must participate in a lottery to get drawn for licenses. Many resident hunters also resent the fact that nonresidents get guaranteed licenses, which may explain why Initiative 161 calls for a substantial increase in license fees for nonresident elk and deer hunters. As you read this, the vote has already been made. Whichever way it goes, the results will impact nonresident hunting in Montana.
Bowhunters Control Urban Deer
As deer herds continue to grow in urban areas across North America, cities look for effective ways to control deer numbers -- and deer damage. Skilled bowhunters have proven to be one of the most efficient and economical tools for controlling urban deer.
Recently, Duluth, Minnesota, announced that a record-high 339 bowhunters had registered for its 2009 urban deer-control hunts. This, the city's sixth bowhunt, started on September 18, and throughout the fall, bowhunters harvested a total of 586 deer. Urban hunts emphasize the harvest of does, and 492 of the deer bowhunters killed in Duluth were does.
In some cities, bowhunters take an even higher percentage of does. In 2007, bowhunters killed 568 deer in one suburb of Philadelphia, and 551 of those were does. Pretty amazing. Cities call this efficient deer management. Soup kitchens that receive much of the venison harvested in urban hunts call it feeding the hungry. Bowhunters call it their civic duty. Whatever the viewpoint, urban bowhunts are win-win for everyone.