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.