Are we spending too much time fishing and hunting?

May 28, 2010

Faith Outdoors

I ran across an interesting news article today highlighting a recent study by a University of Minnesota ecologist, Craig Packer, and a group of researchers.

They say a good way to manage the harvest of fish and game would be to limit the number of days allowed for hunting and fishing. I have thought about this a number of times over the years and I think there is merit to this idea.

In fact, I have practiced this some myself. Granted, my job and family responsibilities do a lot to limit my time in the woods and waters, but I also have tried to manage the impact that I and people I hunt and fish with have on a particular area. In other words, I try not to burn good spots.

For example, with deer and turkey hunting, I often get permission on several pieces of private property so that we harvest no more than two animals on one piece of property. In fact, in all the years I have hunted turkeys and deer, we have never taken more than two on any particular piece of land in one season.

Unfortunately, I regularly hear of high harvests in small areas. Last fall, I talked with the landowner where my friend, John Nesheim, hunted deer with his crossbow. He told me one hunting party took six deer off of his land.

In my book, that’s too many. The year before, I met two different hunters who hunted turkeys on a piece of property where I hunt deer. One said that he and his friend each shot a turkey during their season. The other said he went out with two of his friends and they each got one. That’s five gobblers from the same 160-acre piece of land. Again, too many, as far as I’m concerned.

That same spring, just two properties over, another group of three hunters shot three turkeys in their season. I know that turkeys are prolific when it comes to reproduction, but these properties are taking a pounding and I wonder how long they can sustain such a harvest. I chose to hunt elsewhere this spring, although I did take one of my sons to a neighboring property and he harvested a nice tom.

The problem, I believe, is that most hunters just think of themselves. They are driven to harvest animals, which is their right, but they think little or nothing about others who hunt the same properties and harvest additional animals. In fact, what I often see is hunters regularly hunting the same properties year after year, then bringing others they know out there. The aforementioned group of three are friends of a hunter who hunts the same property with three of his friends. So, one person is responsible for seven people hunting one piece of property.

To me, this is ming boggling. It’s almost as though he is trying to monopolize the property. I talked to the landowner this spring after my son shot his bird, and he told me that he had hunters scheduled to come out during each of the eight turkey-hunting seasons this spring.

Wow! He’s got an excellent piece of property featuring prime habitat and lots of acreage (500-plus), yet I don’t see how it can remain good if this amount of hunting pressure keeps up year after year.

Honestly, it’s hard to believe how little hunters think about this. They seem focused only on filling all of their tags. Then, if things are slow, they start blaming the Minnesota DNR for not doing enough to provide a plentiful supply of game.

The study I read about today recommends more restraint. I agree. I’m not sure if there’s a good way for the DNR to incorporate this into the game and fish regulations. Ideally, hunters and anglers would begin to practice this on their own. Perhaps, the best example I have seen is bass and muskie anglers. The most serious of these release everything they catch. Not coincidentally, the state’s bass and muskie populations, both in terms of quantity and quality, are the best they’ve ever been.

Certainly, there have been catch-and-release regulations for both species that have helped. But, many bass and muskie anglers have adopted their own standards of catch-and-release that go way beyond the rules. Good for them. I, too, release almost every bass that I catch. I made one exception two summers ago when I caught the biggest largemouth of my life — 5 pounds, 11 ounces. I debated, then took it to a taxidermist. Even now, I struggle with whether I should have kept the fish. I’m not likely to keep another, unless it is really big, like more than 7 pounds. To be honest, if I can get a good picture of me in the boat holding the fish right after I catch it, that’s as enjoyable as a mount.

I would love to see more hunters and anglers really stop and think about their current practices and make decisions not to overharvest their good spots. Sharing with others is a reality of our time and I think it’s only going to become more necessary. It would sure be nice if people started disciplining themselves and moderating their harvest without regulations forcing them to do it.

As we do practice moderation, I think we will find ourselves experiencing more gratitude for what we do harvest.

To read the full article on the study, visit http://www.minnpost.com/scientificagenda/2010/05/28/18549/u_report_urges_rethinking_fishing_and_hunting_quotas#115-18549.

About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek