Battle Over Hunting Rights Plays Out In State Capitals

Gannett News Service
Via Liberty Matters News Service


WASHINGTON — Frank Herres, a lifelong hunter and fisherman, said the Wisconsin constitutional amendment that declares people have the right to fish, hunt and trap firmly places the power to govern sportsmen in the hands of hunter-friendly state wildlife officials, whose departments are supported largely through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.

“I think the average person in Wisconsin who hunts and fishes has taken it for granted,” said Herres, a board member of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. “The realization that I could lose that (right) has made me pay attention.”

Rob Sexton, vice president for government affairs at the Ohio-based U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, said hunters are up against extremists whose “goal is to eliminate hunting, and their game plan is to eliminate it piece by piece.”

Lynn Sadler, executive director of the Mountain Lion Foundation in California, dismissed Sexton’s extremist label.

“If 60 percent of the state disagrees with them (sportsmen), who’s the extremist then?” Sadler said, referring to support in California for the ban on hunting mountain lions. “I have a number of deer, turkey and duck hunters in my family. I haven’t kicked them out of the house.”

Sadler said hunting groups that opposed the mountain lion ban in California were out of step with the general public. Voters in 1996 rejected an attempt to repeal the ban for several reasons, including a dislike of the idea of mountain lions being hunted for trophies.

This year, hunting-related bills are pending in at least 15 states. Some would expand hunting practices, as in a South Carolina proposal to allow the use of hounds in hunting raccoons and opossums or in New Jersey, where a proposal would allow bow hunters to take deer on Sundays.

Others would prohibit certain hunting methods. In Maine, there’s a proposal to ban the use of snares to hunt coyotes; in California, there’s a push to stop the use of dogs with radio collars for hunting bears and bobcats.

At the federal level, several members of Congress will try again to ban the practice of using food to attract bears on lands owned by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., also is expected to reintroduce legislation to prohibit “canned hunting” of game animals in enclosed areas.


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