Friday, July 16, 2010

President's Message. "The Real Losers are.." (July 16, 2010)

President's Message: "The Real Losers are.." (July 16, 2010)

The Real "Losers" as a result of new WRC Regs are..

This quote was included in an article that was in the Raleigh N&O written by Javier Serna (7-14-2010.)

"Our goal is to provide as much opportunity as we can for our sportsmen and women," said Wes Seegars, a commissioner from Goldsboro.

This statement confirms what many have been saying all along about all the new WRC rules... that they will have a negative effect on the resource. This is because the extended gun (ML) season, as well as the legalization of crossbows, and unlimited daily and annual bag limits will result in an undesired over harvest of buck deer, and all deer in general. Specifically, immature buck deer will be over harvested.

The fact is that the opportunity to hunt already exists, if hunters were willing to put forth the time and effort to become proficient with a bow and arrow.

There are basically only two "opportunities" that we must have in order to satisfy the needs of both the resource and hunters, preferably, in this order:
(1)- ACCESS to lands to hunt.
(2)-A bonafide QUALITY DEER/BUCK MANAGEMENT PROGRAM created by the WRC. The cost would be minimal, and sincere deer hunters would gladly comply with rules designed to accomplish this goal.

REF (1).. ACCESS: Landowners could be enticed and persuaded to open their properties to hunters by offering the right incentives to do so. A tax break would be a good starter. Other states have programs that reach out to landowners to persuade them to provide access to their lands to hunters. This could be managed and monitored through the WRC's "Registered Lands Program." They could make "Trespass Permits" available to individuals on a daily/weekly/seasonal basis for those who couldn't afford to buy/lease their own property, or join an expensive hunt club. I'm sure there are other options that would be attractive for landowners to allow more hunting. NCBA provides $100,000 hunter liability insurance to all its members. This covers them while bow and gun hunting. This perk for our members is a plus when we seek permission to hunt property.

REF (2).. This is where we, NCBA and 80% of licensed hunters, find us in opposition to the goals of our WRC. As they state, they want to " provide as much opportunity as we can for our sportsmen and women." What this really means is that they want to provide as much opportunity "to kill deer" as they can for hunters.

We (NCBA) and the majority of the WRC's licensed hunting constituency, want to take this a step further and maximize the opportunities for all to:
(a)- Have a "quality hunting experience"; and:
(b)- Increase the opportunities to "see more quality bucks while hunting."

These can only be accomplished if the WRC takes the initiative to implement rules that will help accomplish these goals for all hunters, not just the few who can afford it. These goals cannot be accomplished on a broad basis by individual landowners. Not everyone has access to thousands of acres that can be individually managed. Most don't have the money or time to do this to begin with. Quality deer management by individuals works for the "haves" in this respect. It doesn't work for the "have-nots", which includes most of us. The majority of hunters must rely on hunting public lands or, if they're lucky, they may have "permission" to hunt a 50 acre tract that is surrounded by other similar size tracts of land that are hunted by other hunters. Quality deer management will not work under these conditions. Such is the case across the state, and especially in piedmont and mountain areas. There's just not that many large tracts of land that are available for the average hunter to access.

For as long as we have been monitoring the activities of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, their primary goal in managing deer has been to "put the resource first" in the decision making process to manage our wildlife resources. This doesn't appear to be the case now. Increasing the muzzle loader season by one week and legalizing crossbows for everyone, even during the bow only season is not putting the "resource first." It is putting "people first." Many of our own NCWRC biologists fear that these two new rules will result in an undesirable increase in harvest of immature buck deer. This is the primary reason why they opposed these two rules. This, at a time when the WRC wants to attract new hunters and retain old hunters to help pump up revenue the department needs. Any reduction in the numbers of quality buck deer will only serve to reduce interest in deer hunting for both new and existing licensed hunters.

The blanket legalization of crossbows for everyone also eliminates, by default, the provision under N.C. General Statute 113-296 that has provided a special privilege for disabled sportsmen since this law took effect in 1993. There are over 17,000 hunters who possess the "disabled sportsman permit" in N.C. who will no longer be able to enjoy this one privilege reserved for them. The big winners are the manufacturers who will make lots of money selling crossbows, primarily to gun hunters who view this as an opportunity to hunt during bow season and kill a big buck. Again, the resource will be the primary loser, along with bowhunters, disabled hunters and all deer hunters in the long run.

Sunday bowhunting alone, will not have a negative impact on the quality of the buck population. But, now, with the inclusion of crossbows for everyone, we could see another significant increase in the buck harvest. Conventional bowhunting is not a big factor in deer harvest. Less than 10% of all deer harvested in N.C. are taken with bow and arrow, and only about 36% of the archery harvest is antlered bucks vs. "about" 50-55% for firearms hunters. That extra 15-20% by gun hunters is a lot of bucks when comparing real total harvest numbers of bow to gun hunters. You can access these numbers in the back of the WRC's Regulations Digest and compare them yourself.
Another change that could have a significant impact on our overall deer herd is the removal of daily and annual bag limits. We simply could kill too many deer in some areas. Some hunters may not put forth the required effort to retrieve deer because they know they can climb back in their stands and continue to hunt. Were all these factors considered when all these new regulations were adopted?

Stats from other states that have good quality buck programs concentrate on lower buck bag limits and scheduling gun seasons to occur after the whitetail "rut". This is the primary reasons why they have premier trophy buck hunting, and why many hunters from other states, including N.C., go to these states, like Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Kansas to hunt every year, and spend their money.

Quality bucks are more than just a resource. They are a "treasure" that will attract many hunters into the woods to hunt. This could be the case in North Carolina. But our WRC doesn't seem to view managing our deer herd this way. They just seem to want to "kill more deer".. any deer.. in any way possible.

Time will tell the tale of what impact these new rules will have on our deer herd and hunter numbers. Many hope that if the results are not good, our WRC will seriously look at scaling back some of these rules in the future. And implement new rules more in favor of improving the quality and sustainability of the resource.

We look forward to continuing to try to work with our wildlife professionals and our WRC in achieving workable goals that meet the needs of the resource, and the desires of the hunting constituency in North Carolina, in that order.

Ramon Bell
President, NC Bowhunters Association

Saturday, July 10, 2010

President's Message and Legislative UPDATE (July 10, 2010)

As I write this message (for the 4th time), the short session of the N.C. General Assembly for 2010 is history. All bills that were submitted to disapprove WRC regulations from 2009 died in the House Rules Committee. Thus, all of them will have the effect of becoming law this September when bow season opens. What this means is that come September, Crossbows will be legal for anyone who wants to use them. There will be a second week of muzzle loader (gun) season that was taken from the bow only season, and Sunday Bowhunting will be legal on private lands. NCBA’s official position was that if the WRC approved Sunday Bowhunting, we would support them on this issue, and we have done so. They did approve Sunday Bowhunting in a commission vote in March of 2009. Sunday bowhunting, for the majority of our members and bowhunters, is the one positive thing that came from this process. For those who oppose Sunday hunting in any form, they can refrain from hunting on Sunday, if that is their choice.

In addition to the added week of ML season and legalized crossbows for anyone, the WRC also approved unlimited antlerless deer harvest along with no daily bag limit for them. I think we still must purchase the “Bonus Antlerless Deer Tags” in order to do this. All this added at once is a lot to digest at one time. WRC biologists, including the chief biologist, readily admit that they really don’t know what impact all these new rules will have on deer harvest and the quality of our deer herd. This is of great concern to avid deer hunters who fear that these new rules will result in an overharvest of bucks, espcially immature bucks. All of which are very vulnerable to gun hunting during the new two week muzzle loader season. Any hopes of having a better quality buck herd in N.C. may suffer a great deal. Crossbows during bow season will also contribute to additional buck harvest. Time will tell on this issue. We will be watching closely to see how it all plays out over the next few years.

One thing NCBA members and other fellow sportsmen and women in N.C. need to know is that neither the muzzle loader rule nor the crossbow rule came from the WRC’s professional staff of biologists. Both these proposals originated and were passed by either the commissioners or someone in the administrative offices of the Director. In fact, the field staff of biologists openly and gallantly opposed both rules, but they were overruled by the administration.

The bottom line for me, personally, is that as your president, I believe our executive council did the right thing for all the right reasons in opposing these two regulations. And, the WRC did the wrong thing by approving these rules for NO apparent good, valid reasons. I know that we did do the right thing, and that we put forth our best effort to disapprove these rules. We were bound by our covenant (Constitution & Bylaws) to voice our opinions and opposition to these regulations. We could no longer just sit by and watch unpopular and bad rules be adopted without voicing our opinions and objecting to them. I want to personally thank each and every one of you who responded to the call and made phone calls or wrote letters and emails to legislators. Your voices were heard, and should the need arise again, I know you will arise to the occasion when needed. I believe we did all we could do, it just wasn’t enough to deal with the establishment and the politics that runs it.

There will also be shooting incidents, and other accidents involving crossbows. This is going to happen. We, as Bowhunters, must insist that they are identified as such, and not associated with Bowhunting and Bowhunters, for we know that a crossbow is NOT a bow and arrow. It never will be, and we must constantly remember this and remind those who don’t know, or don’t want to know and admit it. Nevertheless, if new laws are adopted governing crossbows, we must revisit our bylaws and revise them to bring them up to date. They have not been revised since they were first written 35 years ago, and they are antiquated and in need of revision. We do get a lot of criticism of this, and we need to address this issue.

Regardless of the outcome of these new laws, we must not allow anyone to define who and what we are. This goes not just for bowhunters, but hunters of every persuasion; gun hunters, ML hunters, dog hunters, small game hunters, duck hunters, trappers, and yes, even crossbow hunters. We must also try to work together in the future when challenges arise. This wasn’t the case with our current issues. Sad to say, our sportsmen’s alliance failed us. When we needed their support, they were no where to be found. They took the easy way out for the most part... silence. We will be there for them, as always, when the next challenge arises, and I’m afraid it won’t be very long before it does.

The sad part about this entire process is that no one really won anything. The WRC prevailed in the political process and the rules and regulations they passed will go in to effect. The voices of bowhunters and informed deer hunters across the state were heard, not just NCBA and its members. If our bills had reached the floor for a vote, they very well could have been approved. But, as many have said, NCBA is just one, small organization with ONLY 1,500 members.. with a special agenda. Small as we are, we still represent all bowhunters in N.C. , which could be 50 to 100 thousand in number! And, our voice and message was heard by many. Only time will tell who the real winners or losers were in this process. I sincerely hope and pray it is not the resource and all deer hunters who will be the losers. We must continue to voice our opinions when we agree or disagree with what’s going on with the management of our wildlife resources, and how it will affect them and our sport, regardless of the outcome. And, our WRC must know that when issues arise that we disagree with, they should be ready and willing to listen.

Dues Increase: Beginning January 1, 2011, NCBA dues will increase from $20 a year to $30 a year. This amounts to a mere 83 cents a month increase. Subsequently, NCBA Lifetime memberships will also increase from $300 to $450. It has been almost ten years since we have increased dues. We do so with reluctance, because we know some of our members may choose not to maintain their membership. But, if we review what all comes with NCBA membership and consider the increase in cost of providing basic services; it is still the best deal around. Five dollars of this dues increase will be dispersed to various funds as deemed most necessary by the executive council each year. Emphasis for this will most likely be placed on the “Bowhunter Defense Fund” and the “Land Acquisition Fund”.

New Guidelines for the “Youth Achievement Award”, “Bowhunter of the Year” awards, and “Local Chapter Club of the Year” have been approved also. The “Youth Achievement Award” guidelines go into effect immediately. Guidelines for other awards go into effect January 1, 2011. We will publish and make available all the new, upcoming guidelines so everyone will be informed of them way ahead of time. Any youth wishing to compete for these awards should request a copy of the guidelines and nomination form now. All these awards are based on a number of activities.. Not just hunting or harvesting game. It will be very beneficial for anyone who is serious about competing for any of these awards keep a journal of all hunting, volunteer, etc., activities. We also voted to go to four separate “Divisions” in our annual contests for all official animal and fish categories. The four “Divisions” will be: Male, Female, Youth Male and Youth Female Bowhunter. Be sure to read messages from Joey Thompson (Records Chairman) and Jamie Brady (Membership Chairman) for more information and details on these changes.

New data base for NCBA: Our “Information Technology” (I.T.) team and CIO advise that we about to embark on a new venture for NCBA. All our records and data will be stored in one common data base that will allow access by key officers in the association. We will be going back to past officers to gather copies of their records, photos, etc., for our archives, to preserve the history of NCBA for future generations to come. If you have any items that you feel would be of interest to our members, please contact me about getting this information copied, scanned and stored for future entry into the data base.

Website upgrade: Lee Matthews and a couple others have put forth a lot of work to convert our old website to a newer one over the past year or so. We continue to work to improve it. Since our last magazine, we now have the ability to accept donations on our website to the “Bowhunter Defense Fund”. In the near future, features will be added to allow donations to other NCBA funds, and to join NCBA and renew memberships, and to purchase NCBA logo items. Watch for it soon.

5th Annual NCBA Picnic: This will be held at Guilford Bowhunters clubhouse on Sunday, August 1st beginning at 2 pm. Bring your bows and a hearty appetite. Everyone is asked to bring either a veggie dish and/or a dessert. Please RSVP if you plan to attend, and include the number of people in your group. Email confirmations to: ; Phone confirmations to: 336-643-4455.

Again, my sincerest thanks to all… for everything you do to help make NCBA the best it can be.

For Bowhunting, “Let’em Grow!”… Ramon Bell, President