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PA considers antler restrictions. (Know Hunting).

For the 2002-2003 season, momentum is building to adopt a minimum antler restriction for the one million gun deer hunters in Pennsylvania. Under the guidance of Dr. Gary Alt, doe harvests have been raised considerably over the past 2 years, to bring the Pennsylvania herd under control and improve deer habitat. Many predicted that this new approach would bring hunter resistance and political interference, but that has not happened.

Dr. Alt theorized that harvesting more does would create a situation where the state could manage for bigger bucks. Now he is going one step further by proposing a 3-points-on-one-side antler restriction for the northern two-thirds of the state and a 4-points-on-one-side restriction in the southern portion. Alt believes this will put 100,000 bucks into the next age class, something that will make most hunters happy. In addition, Alt is proposing to convert the short mid-October muzzleloader hunt for does into a rifle antlerless season. The result of this proposal if implemented? Hunters should see more trophy bucks than ever, because the harvest will now focus on 2 1/2-year-olds with eight or more points. It's too early to tell if this creative approach will work, but if it does, other northern states might do well to emulate what is happening in Pennsylvania.

Students Get Back to Basics

Professor and hunter Lee Foote at the University of Alberta teaches a course called "Utilization of Wildlife Resources." For a lab exercise, 44 students went to Foote's backyard where he field dressed a road-killed deer. What could this possibly have to do with the future of hunting? Consider that this was a class of college students, most not whom do not hunt, some of whom are antihunting, some of whom are vegetarians. Dr. Foote exposed them to the history of human use of animals. The cave man used the meat for food, deer brains to tan hides for clothes, teeth for jewelry, the bladder to carry water in, fat to make candles, etc. As one writer put it, the students were "challenged to confront the bloody reality of their existence."

Dr. Foote used the demonstration to make the point that everyone on this planet, even vegetarians, is a consumer. We grow vegetables on formerly valuable wildlife habitat. We keep warm using fossil fuels, the extraction of which leads to the death of animals. We wear clothing made from products raised in fields (i.e. cotton) where wildlife once lived. During Dr. Foote's lab he pointed Out that eating wild game is healthful, hunting is safe, trophy hunting involves setting high standards, hunting is a "green" activity (i.e., it's environmentally friendly), and that hunting brings man directly into contact with the natural world and his natural heritage. What a great exercise! It's one that wildlife professors everywhere might consider conducting for their students.

Wolf Takes a Hike

Last October a bowhunter shot what he thought was a coyote as it circled his sheep pen in Grundy County, Missouri. Turns out the animal, which wore a radio collar, was a wolf that had been tagged as a juvenile in July 1999. This was the first documented wolf sighting in Missouri in modern history. But just as unusual is where the wolf was originally tagged -- the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Michigan DNR followed this wolf for nine months before losing the radio signal. At that point the wolf apparently had begun what turned out to be a 600-mile hike, including a swim across the Mississippi River. The Michigan DNR pointed out that juvenile wolves will move long distances to set up new territories, but 600 miles could be a new record.

Game Farms Spread Disease

We've given several updates on the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), first found in Colorado in 1967. In late September Colorado officials discovered CWD in three game farm herds around the state and quarantined 27 elk farms. Most of the problems were traced back to the sale of elk from the Elk Echo Ranch in northeastern Colorado. That ranch had shipped over 400 elk to various Colorado game farms, plus farms in 15 other states. The ranch had to destroy its entire herd of elk and deer.

Eliminating entire game farm herds is not unique. As we reported earlier, thousands of game farm elk have been destroyed in Saskatchewan. The concern in Colorado stems from the fact that up until this time CWD has been found only in the northeastern part of Colorado. That is no longer true. While impacts on wild herds have been minimal, the continued spread of CWD from game farm to game farm, not only in Colorado but also in several other states and provinces, is cause for concern. Why? Because it has become apparent that CWD can spread from game farms to wild herds, and there is no cure for CWD. Any infected animal will die.

Recent figures show that in Unit 9 in Colorado, 14 percent of the wild mule deer that were shot had CWD. Most other tested units showed less than a 3-percent infection rate. The new deer management plan calls for a reduction of deer in the northeast corner of the state from 9,500 to 7,000 or fewer animals. To that end the Division of Wildlife implemented the sale of 300 extra doe tags in Units 19 and 191 (19 has a 5-percent infection rate, 191 has a 7-percent infection rate in wild deer) for use this past December-January to reduce deer densities in those areas, thus lessening the chance for transmission of CWD.

Trailblazer Program Thrives

Last October 1,300 Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and their parents attended the pilot of the Trailblazer Adventure Program in Atlanta, Georgia. The Wildlife Conservation Fund of America, Boy Scouts of America, and the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies joined forces to create this program. The goal is to get families involved in the outdoors. During the day-long event, the Scouts shot guns and bows, fished, learned about birds of prey and reptiles, and participated in other outdoor education activities. Johnny Day, director of the Atlanta Area Boy Scout Program, said, "I knew this would be an excellent program. I am looking forward to a growing partnership between the WCFA, the Boy Scouts, and our state wildlife agency."

The program does not end after the day's activities. A yearlong mentoring program is available wherein the Scouts interact with mentors from local conservation clubs. The mentors stay in touch with the Scouts and invite them to participate in hunting, fishing, shooting, and other outdoor education programs during the year. When a Scout finishes the program, he is recognized as a Trail Master and awarded a Trailblazer patch. This program has great potential.
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Author:Dave, Dr., Samuel
Date:May 1, 2002
Previous Article:The politician. (Maggie's Meanderings).
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