Hunting is facing new challenges

Just about all sportsmen and women are aware that the sale of hunting licenses nationwide have been on the decline for the past two decades. I have stated several times in past columns that the number of new youth hunters is nowhere close to replacing the senior hunters who are retiring from this respectable activity. To some degree, I can understand why.

Today’s youth and young hunters face many challenges that we did not face when we were in our youth and learning how to hunt. These challenges include new technology, poor mentoring and the anti-hunting groups and movement. Many parents today just don’t have the time to take their children into the fields and forests for an all-day outdoors adventure, due to a highly stressful job. This is indeed most unfortunate for a large number of growing youth.

The pressure that is being put on many students in large junior high and high schools is almost beyond belief for the residents of the Mountain State. From reading and studying general science and biology textbooks, students have learned that the American Bison or buffalo was hunted or killed to near extinction, which is very true. It was also quite true for the white-tailed deer in West Virginia. At the same time, these same students appear to know very little or nothing about the comeback the deer have made, not only in West Virginia, but in the Eastern United States, because of sound conservation and game management. At the present time, there is every reason to believe there are more white-tailed deer in what is now West Virginia than when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in the year 1620.

The number of people who go hunting has dwindled to less than 6 percent of the nation’s population. This has to be a time when sport hunting is highly misunderstand. Some parents just don’t want their children to participate in what they call a “blood sport.” These parents seem to think that sport hunting is cruel and inhumane to wild animals.

All cultures and traditions are subject to change with time. Hunting and fishing are no exception to this trend. The big question I have is, what else is going to change if hunting and shooting sports fade into history.

It was in 1937 when organized groups of hunters requested that the federal government put an excise tax on sporting firearms and ammunition. On the average, about 70 percent of each state’s fish and wildlife management agency’s operating budget is funded from this excise tax and state license sales. Without these funds, wildlife conservation will sharply decrease, not only for game animals, but all wildlife and outdoor recreational facilities as well.

The federal government will most likely find another way to use the funds from the excise tax on firearms and ammunition. Just a few years ago, two candidates running for president of the United States recommended that this money be used to help the victims from all of the gun violence that now plagues several of the nation’s large cities. If this were to ever come about, it would be a total disaster for all sport hunting in the United States.

A few days ago, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources released the figures from the fall wild turkey hunting season. In 2017, hunters took 948 birds during the fall hunting season. This is down from 2,066, or 54 percent from the 2016 fall turkey hunting season.

The top five counties were: Greenbrier (64), Preston (55), Monroe (51), Randolph (38) and Nicholas (36). I would like to give a more comprehensive report of all of the state’s big game hunting season when the DNR releases the official harvest figures sometime in February or March.