Monday, October 17, 2011

Continuing the Heritage-More Obstacles

Note: Please feel free to share this post with anyone that enjoys hunting, fishing, or the outdoors.

Last year, North Carolina registered 505,530 licensed hunters.  This was the most since 1994 and continues a trend in which each year since 2002 the number of licensed hunters has increased.  While it is encouraging to see our numbers go up, they still fall behind in the overall picture as far as percentage compared to population growth.
Getting our youth, as well as adults, in the outdoors to participate in activities such as hunting and fishing is imperative to keep the heritage alive.  As mentioned in the past, there are far more distractions and other activities for the population these days than in the past.  Television with hundreds of channels, game consoles and systems, and computers all compete to keep our youth occupied. 
Please read the previous post Heritage of the Outdoors.
Other factors challenging the outdoor heritage are environmental groups distaste for hunting and fishing.  I use environmental groups loosely.  Let me explain a little before continuing with the point.  Hunters and fishermen/women provide funds for wildlife conservation, gamelands, studies, even preservation areas, amongst other programs through purchases of licenses, stamps, excise taxes through the Pittman-Robertson act, memberships and donations through conservations groups such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Quail Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Boone and Crockett, Pope and Young, and many more than can be listed.  In other words, outdoorsmen and women provide the majority of funds to protect both wildlife and land.  They are the true environmentalists.  Meanwhile, other groups seeking to stop hunting and fishing, claim to be environmental organizations.
Back to the point.  As recently as August 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was petitioned to ban all lead products used for hunting and fishing under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA).  The EPA responded they did not have authority under the TSCA to activate such a ban. Currently there is a bill asking for the EPA to be granted that authority.  Kind of a back door approach to allow the EPA to be given power to ban ammunition without having it go through Congress.
Referenced in many of these reports are the effects of lead shot on mourning dove populations.  Lead was banned for waterfowl back in 1991 due to effects on the duck, geese, and swan populations.  Researching studies on dove myself, there are studies saying dove populations have been effected by anywhere from .2% to as high as 6.4%.  I believe the difference in percentages may be based on locality.
It is estimated there are between 1.2 and 1.6 million dove hunters in the United States accounting for 19-21 million birds harvested each season.  The ammunition of choice is lead shot which accounts for 75% of shotgun shells sold each year.  Here is where the assault on potential new hunters, as well as existing hunters comes in.  A box of 25 shells of 7 ½ lead shot, the typical purchase for dove ammunition, costs roughly $6.  On opening day of dove season, a hunter, especially a new hunter, can easily shoot 100 shells equating to roughly $24 worth of ammunition.  The primary alternative to lead is steel shot.  In comparison, a box of 25 shells of steel shot costs roughly $25.  This equates to $100 worth of ammunition.  This does not include any shells used for practicing by shooting skeet or clay pigeons.  The large increase in costs would severely deter new hunters.
Shotshells would not be the only ammunition regulated either.  Most hunting cartridges consist of a lead projectile.  A young hunter’s first rifle is often a .22 caliber.  Ammunition is cheap, so the youth can become familiar with the operation of the rifle by shooting many times.  A box of 100 .22 cartridges runs approximately $7.50.  Changing the composition of the bullet could increase the cost by 4 times that amount.  Again, the increase would likely eliminate many new hunter's first excursion, or at least repeated excursions into the outdoors.
What we must do is look at this issue as a whole.  If we go to an overall ban on lead, the numbers of hunters will surely decrease, causing us to lose massive amounts of funding through license sales and excise taxes (Pittman-Robertson Act).  These funds will either no longer provide the conservation efforts needed for our environment or they will have to be supplemented from other avenues in government (overall taxes).  Also, with a decrease in hunters, less game will be taken.  A raise in limits on game would not provide enough control, as the ammunition would still be too costly to take only a limited numbers of game animals.
Wildlife biologists are charged with the task of determining the mortality rates of the different game animals, and if lead is effecting populations such as dove to a detrimental level, then limits should be adjusted downward.  However, it was not long ago dove limits were increased from 12 to 15 birds per day, indication the population has grown rather than decreased.
Perhaps the answer is not to ban all lead ammunition and fishing equipment.  If there are areas in particular that are affected in an adverse way, the local/state governments can and should regulate accordingly.  But to ban all, may have an effect that is much more detrimental than the effect of lead.



Bill Howard writes a weekly outdoors column for the Wilson Times and Yancey County News and the bowhunting blog site GiveEmTheShaft.com. He is a Hunter Education and International Bowhunter Education instructor, lifetime member of the North Carolina Bowhunters Association, Bowhunter Certification Referral Service Chairman, member and official measurer of Pope and Young, and a regular contributor to North Carolina Bowhunter Magazine.

3 comments:

  1. The loss of revenue through the sale of ammunition and licenses is something the non-hunting public would never make up through donations. Conservation efforts would be severely compromised if we lost out on these ammunition sales and the corresponding loss of license sales. I don't think this is something the general public ever considers or even knows about.

    I do think the ammunition manufacturers would figure out a way to produce cheaper non-toxic loads to use for dove hunting, they sure have for waterfowling. I remember when we switched over to steel shot for duck hunting, it took a while to figure out shot size, choke constriction, effective range, etc. I will say this, it hurts to pay $20-$25 for the really good non-toxic loads, like Heavy Metal!

    I would add one more conservation org to your list above, The Nature Conservancy. They have some great property here in the west that we've enjoyed hunting and fishing on.

    Great post, and good hunting!

    Pete

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  2. Because I enjoy duck hunting the most, I am actually looking forward to a ban on all lead ammunition because only then will gun clubs, and indoor ranges make the necessary changes to allow waterfowl hunters access to their facilities for testing and practice with waterfowl ammunition.

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