This new year looks like it is going to be very challenging for gun owners and to all who believe that the second amendment to the constitution is an individual right to own a gun. United States Attorney General Eric Holder has called for a ban on certain semi-automatic firearms. Several gun-control leaders in Congress are eager to introduce bills that will ban firearms, license all gun owners, register guns, serialize ammunition and shut down all gun shows.
Now, despite this gloomy picture, there is a bright side to the economic downturn all of us have had to endure in 2009. It may be hard for some people to believe, but participation in sport hunting and fishing increased in the past year. A quarterly report issued from several outdoor associations indicates an increase in the number of fishing licenses sold nationwide. From Jan. 1 to Sept. 1, 2009, sales were up nearly 8 percent versus the same period in 2008.
This past week, I was talking with a spokesperson from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Operations Center, who told me that hunting license sales were up roughly 10 percent from 2008. This has to be good news.
It also raises a question. Why are hunting and fishing numbers increasing during an economic downturn? There could be several reasons. Some people are starting to find out that hunting and fishing are not as expensive as other outdoor sports and pastimes. It also appears that at a time during an economic downturn sportsmen have more time available to engage in these outdoor sports.
I have emphasized in past columns that the youth hunts are vital for the future of sport hunting in West Virginia. It now looks like this program may start paying off with some big dividends. Another factor to take into consideration is the increase in the number of women who want to get "into the act." For example, in Pennsylvania this past week, I was reading about a 12-year-old girl who got her first deer in 2007. She was one of the more than 300,000 young girls who took to the woods that year. This more than doubles the number of young women hunters from the year 1996.
Most male hunters live in rural areas and, unfortunately, they are aging. Their numbers were declining until possibly last year. While female interest and participation in hunting may be a mystery, it has to be good news.
Peggy Farrell, a female hunter who runs the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program and the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, stated, "A connection to nature is No. 1."
I have had some local woman hunters to tell me "they would rather be in the woods during the fall than to be shopping at a clothing or grocery store." I have also had my own experience with female hunters while hunting and plan on letting readers know what a few of them have been in future columns.
The members of the anti-hunting movement have been gloating over the decrease in hunting license sales for the past 10 to 20 years. In 2010, I do not think they will be doing a lot of gloating when they read about the increase in hunting and fishing participation.
This does not mean that the battle to abolish sport hunting is over or has been won by the nation's sportsmen and women. No, Indeed. This is a struggle to last for generations to come.
Everyone concerned about this political dispute would do well to remember a statement made by the early American patriot Patrick Henry when he states at the Virginia Convention in 1775, "The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave."