Those Darn Hunters By Brian G. Schommer If you are a first-time reader of this column, you might not be aware that hunting and fishing are sometimes topics of focus and discussion. The column is a …
Those Darn Hunters
By Brian G. Schommer
If you are a first-time reader of this column, you might not be aware that hunting and fishing are sometimes topics of focus and discussion. The column is a blend of editorial and opinion, community correspondence and critical review with a splash of advice. If you are a first-time reader, we sure hope you enjoy it. If you have suggestions, ideas for a column, including outdoor opportunities in the Hastings, Prescott, Cottage Grove areas of Minnesconsin, please be sure to let the publisher know by emailing him at [email protected] He will make sure the information gets downstream as fast as a piece of driftwood on the Kinnickinnic floating to the St. Croix. Suggestions are always welcome and if you would like to share in some outdoor adventures, let me know. Recently, I was engaged in a good verbal discussion of opposite viewpoint. The last two “Outdoor Adventures” columns focused on some conservation type issues. From a comparison of different types of pollution caused by various types of grilling to the damage done by litter to our waterways, streams, lakes, and environment in general, there was a definite direction being forged. The discussion was with a friend that I have known for some time was surprised that I cared so much for the environment because I am a hunter. Better judgement caught all comments before they blasted out of my mouth like buckshot from a 12-guage. Like many, I am not always the best at holding my tongue. That is why I write a column and not news articles.
This is a perfect forum to share some opinion and critical review of hunters. Hunter’s spend millions of dollars a year on hunting licenses alone. Many hunters also fish, which adds to their annual license fee expenditures. Did you know that those license fees pay for fish and wildlife management, public land infrastructure maintenance, habitat, and other natural resource management programs? In addition, those license fees that pay for the staff and supplies to help create “some of the nation’s most sought-after outdoor experiences,” according to the Minnesota DNR website. The State of Wisconsin can say the same about their outdoor opportunities. Minnesconsin has some of the most incredible places for “Outdoor Adventures” anywhere and not just hunting and fishing. For those who are into hiking, camping, sight-seeing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, four-wheeling and so much more; it is all in our backyard. Just know, that without the funds that come in from hunting and fishing folks, we would not have what we have.
Some people believe hunters are just uncaring, blood thirsty killers who must have some Barbarian in their DNA. We all have the right to our own opinion and by no means do I think this column will change that. However, as someone who had his DNA checked through one of those ancestry kits, I am a mix of several nationalities with German (specific to Luxemburg) coming in quite strong but, there is absolutely no Barbarian in my lineage. If life were all about me, there would be no blood when hunting or fishing because, sometimes I get a little queasy. Not always, but a few times with larger game, it has happened. The two things that I respect most about hunting is the game that I hunt and maintaining the habitat where that game lives. For me, the same can be said for fishing. More important than my opinion, is the people that I know that hunt and fish, feel the same way. Without doing an official survey, I venture to guess that most people who hunt and fish have little to no Barbarian in their genetic history. The majority feel terrible if we put a bad shot on an animal or do not set the hook in time on that “way too small” fish that ends up swallowing the hook way too deep. The “killing” is not what drives most of us. There are bad apples in every bushel AND, this can be said for all walks of life.
Knowing that license fees go to help provide programs that maintain habitat that provides solace for wildlife including deer, turkey, pheasants and of course, snipe (they really do exist), is something that most hunters take pride in. Knowing that the money spent on licenses is going to clean water efforts on the 4,500+ fishing lakes, 16,000 miles of fishable rivers and streams or maintaining over 1,500 Wildlife Management Areas in Minnesota again, is something to be proud of, and again, the same can be said for the residents of Wisconsin that hunt and fish. Usually in a discussion of this topic matter, some will bring up the Minnesota State Lottery and Legacy Amendment dollars. I have been told, “You know, not as much money from your license fees go to what you think.” Many people believe that most of what protects our environment and funds the DNR comes from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (Lottery) and the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. If you have this belief, respectfully, you are as wrong. Once again, according to the Minnesota DNR website, “Minnesota State Lottery and Legacy Amendment dollars are not available for basic year-to-year fish and wildlife management or conservation officer funding. Those dollars can only be used for specifically approved projects.” The site continues to explain that, “Since state law prohibits lottery and legacy dollars from paying the regular costs of doing fish, wildlife and habitat management and maintenance across Minnesota, license fee dollars have to support the necessary and growing amount of work DNR staff must do to allow lottery and legacy funds to be put to use.” That means, without the amount of funds brought in from hunting and license fees, we do not have the outdoor spaces, facilities, and opportunities that we have.
I did not realize that there are Federal excise taxes allocated to each state based on purchases of certain types of outdoor gear and marine fuels. These taxes are based on the number of people who buy hunting and fishing licenses and the geographic size of the state. In this way, license fees serve as additional leverage for environment and habitat funding as Minnesota deposits its federal dollars into the Game and Fish Fund. For every $100 Minnesota spends on allowed game and fish expenses, the federal government reimburses $75, effectively allowing DNR to spend three times more than it could if it only used money from license sales from license sales for fish, game and habitat management and maintenance. If you did not know this either… you do now.
Additional economic benefits provided by hunting and fishing that include millions spent on camouflage clothes, gadgets and widgets designed to make the hunting and fishing experience more successful, the newest gear including that new shotgun you have been eyeing for the last year… all this stimulates the local economy and let us not forget about the sales taxes that are generated. Sales tax in Minnesota is used to pay for state and local budget items like schools, roads, and fire departments. The benefits of hunting and fishing have an extensive reach to many who do not participate in the activities. Like so many things in life, if we look for the good in others instead of the things we do not agree with, things can be a bit more tolerable.
Are there some “bad apples” in the bushel basket? Of course, there are and just like those who use our State Parks for camping and leave their sites in disarray or those who hike the trails, canoe, or kayak the rivers and streams or bird watch and leave their cigarette butts, candy wrappers and such on the ground, let us not let a few bad apples ruin the entire bushel. Rather, let us try to see the good apples for what they are. It will not be long that those apple trees in the area begin to bloom again and soon, will create new and delicious fruits for the picking. Get Out and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.