TEEN HUNTERS IN THE WOODS
I am not a bow hunter.
I am neither a good enough hunter nor a good enough archer.
So if I’m going to get a deer this year, it’s going to have to walk in front of my truck on the drive to work in the morning, or amble within range of my shotgun on opening day.
Except that, in the southern zone of New York, by the time my opening day arrives, there have already been guys in the woods for a month trying to kill deer.
And under a proposed rule change, that month will stretch to a month and a half. That will give bow hunters a season about three times as long as shot gunners.
Which doesn’t really strike me as fair.
Why does one category of hunter have not only the all-important first access, but also substantially longer access to a public resource? If the purpose of hunting is to provide recreation for New Yorkers and to control the deer population, why is such privilege extended to a smaller group of hunters who are less efficient at killing deer?
I’m not speaking against bow hunters or against archery season. I’m just pointing out that they already have a pretty sweet deal. Giving them an even earlier start to their season – October 1 – makes it even sweeter.
Which leaves me mystified at their complaints against another proposed change to the hunting rules – which would benefit teen-agers.
Also proposed for inclusion in this fall’s hunt is a special young-hunter weekend to give teen-agers an early shotgun crack at deer. Under the proposal, 14- and 15-year-old hunters would be able to hunt for deer with a shotgun over the Columbus Day weekend.
It’s a great step.
Unfortunately, in New York, where individual freedom means nothing, the state’s anti-hunting and anti-gun bias deny a hunting license to anyone not yet in late adolescence. Where many states see hundreds of 9- and 10-year-olds bagging deer each fall, New York effectively keeps the young out of the woods.
In light of that, a special junior-hunter weekend is a step in the right direction. The proposed weekend is a good thing.
Unless you somehow think the woods belong to only you, as some bow hunters seem to do.
Or at least as their organizations seem to think.
Incredibly, some New York bow-hunter groups have spoken out against the young-hunter weekend. They have said that the teen-agers will pose a danger to the archers and that the firing of shotguns will spook the deer and make it harder for the bow hunters to get a deer.
The deer belong to everybody and the woods – at least the state-owned woods – also belong to everybody. Archers do not have an exclusive claim on either. An individual bow hunter is no more important than is an individual teen-age hunter – even if that teen-age hunter is carrying a shotgun.
Accommodating the one is as important as accommodating the other.
As to safety, the new hunters, accompanied by an adult, are no more dangerous than any other category of hunter. And if the bow hunters are that worried about their safety, then leave the start of their season right where it is – in the middle of October. Give the young hunters first crack at the herd.
Or let the bow hunters subscribe to the ethic that encouraging new hunters is a good thing. Let them stand with other sportsmen in recognizing that the culture and practice of hunting are endangered and need to be supported and encouraged at every turn. Bringing in young hunters is essential to assuring the survival of hunting.
Even if those hunters are using a different implement than you are.
The fact is that, in New York, shotgun hunting is the means of taking deer that is the easiest and most affordable. A new hunter is apt to have a greater likelihood of success with a gun than he is with a bow and arrow.
This isn’t about picking a fight with archers. It’s about common sense. The woods and the deer herd are big enough for all of us – including, for one weekend, some kids.
Bow hunters still have almost three times as much season as gun hunters. They still will be starting a month and a half earlier than adult shot gunners.
And they remain overwhelmingly sportsmen who seamlessly transition from one to another – trading bows for guns as one season melds into another. Many bow hunters are the mothers and fathers of young hunters they would very much like to get into the woods. Many bow hunters would be thrilled to see teen-agers taking deer. Many bow hunters are more than happy to share the woods.
Not just many, but most.
The problem isn’t with bow hunters, who are excellent and conscientious sportsmen, it is with some of the organizations that represent them.
Organizations which are trying to talk the DEC out of giving teens Columbus Day weekend to hunt deer.
Good-hearted outdoorspeople of every stripe need to speak out in support of young hunters. This weekend is a good idea.
No matter what the archery groups say.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2012