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Location: Southeast Washington State
Joined: 09/28/2004
Posts: 117
The future of hunting in the Northwest???

In the last twenty years, I've noticed how most of the land in South Central Washington has gone from "Feel Free to Hunt" postings, to fenced in, locked gates with "No Hunting" and "No Trespassing" sign postings. In asking some of the landowners why this is happening, the number one answer is littering. This is followed closely by crop damage or fence damage.

We need to be more aware of our role as ethical hunters if we are to expect to be able to continue hunting in this state. We are already aware of the problems with the Hanford Elk herd in Benton County, and how the US Fish and Wildlife agents have been tasked to exterminate 60 elk this year because of farmers' complaints about crop damage. Damage which our government has compensated them for to the tune of over $500,000 already. The reason the agents are killing the elk is because the herd's population has overgrown the adjacent public land's carrying capacity, and the farmers will not let the general hunting public on their private lands anymore because of vandalism, littering, and trespass. Of course, the payoff incentive is there for the farmers. After all, $500,000 is a lot of money. It is a sad statement that our government was compelled to pay for crop damage. Especially when there are so many ethical hunters willing to hunt that area. That the farmers were able to make a solid case for compensation because a few lousy hunters abused access privileges says an awful lot about how bad things have become.

What we have to ask ourselves is do we really want to hand the privilege of hunting back to the agents to do as they see fit? If so, then we will continue to see 3 month extensions to the elk and deer season like last year, but no hunters taking any more animals out.

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Location: Southeast Washington State
Joined: 09/28/2004
Posts: 117
The future of hunting in the Northwest???

By the way, in case your wondering why the Hanford elk aren't being hunted on the adjacent public land, it is because some of it is part of the Arid Lands Ecological Reserve, where no one except Government agents and the BPA are allowed to enter, and the rest is the Hanford Nuclear Reservations, where the possession of any firearm is forbidden except by security and law enforcement.

Guess where the US Fish and Wildlife Agents will be going to exterminate the elk? Yep, out on the ALE, where public access is restricted because of the "Fragile, Pristine Habitat". This is the same area that was burned up a few years ago in one of the biggest brush fires this county has ever experienced. Also where the government paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to replant sagebrush, grass, and tumbleweeds to return it to it's "pristine" condition.

Don't get me started...

bitmasher's picture
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Location: Colorado
Joined: 02/27/2002
Posts: 2973
The future of hunting in the Northwest???

I concur with your opinion on needing to raise the bar on landowner respect. However, at least here the cat is out of the bag so to speak. Basically the status quo is you either pay a trespass fee or you don't get to play. Although occasionally you run across so and so that has a relationship with a private land holder that spans several years (or decades) and they still grant them free access.

IMO, some of the shutting of the gates is being driven not just by slob hunters but also the down fall of agriculture in america, although that may not necessarily be in your area. With ranching in decline and farm wages being depressed (like wheat), farms/ranches are (rightly) turning their property into pay-for-access businesses for income.

All of this just makes the public land that is available that much more valuable.

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Location: Southeast Washington State
Joined: 09/28/2004
Posts: 117
The future of hunting in the Northwest???

Although you don't see it here in my neck of the wheatfields yet, there is a lot more hunting leases going on, especially back east, than what used to be. I understand that some leases are becoming quite lucrative for the landowners. We do have some of that happening with this particular elk herd here, and the farmers who's land they are on do get special permits that they sell for approx $4,000 each. Still, they are making their money off the state and feds in the form of damage payments far and away more than they get for the permits they sell.

Sad to say, most landowners around here would rather not lease their land yet. Maybe the economics of it will make a difference in the future. But for now, they are too frustrated to care.