California scrambles to increase hunting to help protect public lands

Thanks to the Left, over the years less land has been available for hunting in California, fewer days and the cost of permits, ammunition and guns are more expensive to pay for new government regulations.  Plus, government and radicals have been shaming people to stay away from public lands.

“With waning public interest, an ever-shrinking number of hunting grounds because of urbanization, stricter gun laws and the loss of family traditions, fewer Californians are hunting than ever before — less than 1%of the population, compared with 4% nationally. But the state is now trying to reverse that trend by “recruiting, retaining and reactivating” hunters – an initiative dubbed R3. 

That’s because the loss of revenues from hunters means that California could lose critical funding to protect its public lands, state wildlife officials say.

 “Hunters are directly responsible for funding what we do out here,” said Sean Allen, senior fish and wildlife habitat supervisor at the Los Banos Wildlife Area. A world-famous duck hunting destination, the wetland habitat depends on $1.2 million a year in federal and state funding — supported by recreation taxes and license fees — to help maintain 6,200 acres.”

The Left should stop harming our public lands, keeping citizens away from public lands—maybe they need to go duck hunting and enjoy the outdoors instead of bullying people—they might like the fresh air.

Photo courtesy simonov, flickr

California scrambles to increase hunting to help protect public lands

Revenue loss could cost state funding, wildlife officials suggest

By Ariana Remmel, Santa Cruz Sentinel,  2/13/20    

Every winter, duck hunter Randall Smith invites a flock of friends and family members to join him on the wetlands, but no one ever takes him up on the offer. So he makes the trip alone, driving hours to hunt at dusk rather than dawn because development has claimed the public lands that were once much closer to his Santa Cruz home. 

“I feel like a dying breed,” said Smith, a 71-year-old martial arts teacher. 

With waning public interest, an ever-shrinking number of hunting grounds because of urbanization, stricter gun laws and the loss of family traditions, fewer Californians are hunting than ever before — less than 1%of the population, compared with 4% nationally. But the state is now trying to reverse that trend by “recruiting, retaining and reactivating” hunters – an initiative dubbed R3. 

That’s because the loss of revenues from hunters means that California could lose critical funding to protect its public lands, state wildlife officials say.

 “Hunters are directly responsible for funding what we do out here,” said Sean Allen, senior fish and wildlife habitat supervisor at the Los Banos Wildlife Area. A world-famous duck hunting destination, the wetland habitat depends on $1.2 million a year in federal and state funding — supported by recreation taxes and license fees — to help maintain 6,200 acres.

The federal funds are raised by excise taxes on firearms, ammunition and outdoor equipment under a 1937 U.S. law called the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. The law has provided more than $14 billion to states in the last eight decades.

To be eligible for this federal funding, however, state wildlife areas must have their own revenue stream — earned primarily through the sale of hunting licenses and tags. When Allen submits a new proposal for wetlands conservation, for example, he has to show that he can come up with one-quarter of the project’s cost.

Like many California wildlife officials, Allen is worried that diminished funding will further imperil the Golden State’s disappearing wetlands. There used to be 4 million acres of pristine wetlands in the Central Valley, but the state has now lost more than 95% of that land to development, according to the Central Valley Joint Venture, a nonprofit group that protects bird habitat. 

The loss of wildlife areas makes it harder for ducks and other migrating birds to find a place to rest during the winter when they need to be conserving energy for the breeding season in the spring. If Californians can’t take care of these precious wetlands, Allen said, it’s harder for the birds to meet their basic needs. It also means that the remaining public wetlands are few and far between, requiring more complicated logistics and longer distances for hunters to reach them. 

These challenges have forced Smith to abandon hunting deer and other big game. He says he can’t find public lands where the sport is allowed — at least not anywhere within driving distance of his home.

More rules

Increasing regulations on firearm and ammunition sales are also making it harder for hunters to practice their sport. Two new laws that took effect on July 1 — one requiring background checks for all ammunition sales, the other banning the use of lead bullets for hunting — have put conservation groups that support responsible hunting in a bind.

The Ventana Wildlife Society in Big Sur went so far as to become a federally regulated ammunition distributor to continue giving out free non-lead ammo to ranchers in California Condor country who are having trouble acquiring it on their own. 

Many hunters say they understand that the new laws are aimed at helping protect people and wildlife, but they still feel targeted. “I feel that it’s incremental pressure on people purchasing ammunition and firearms,” Smith said.

For Smith, all of the changes go beyond his sport. They also affect his lifestyle. Hunting “is just the circle of life,” he said. “It’s as natural as breathing.” 

Like many hunters of his generation, Smith tried to pass on the traditions associated with the sport to his three children, but they never seemed interested. That echoes the findings of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, whose research shows that outreach to youths is no longer an effective means of bringing people into the sport. Smith himself learned how to duck hunt from a mentor he met well into his adulthood. 

Over the past half-century, the number of hunting licenses sold annually in California has fallen 70%  — from 764,000 in 1970 to 225,000 in 2019, even as the state’s population has doubled. So to maintain wilderness areas, the state has been forced to raise the remaining hunters’ fees, pricing many of them out of the market. 

“Way back when I could buy seven pig tags for $5.80,” said 51-year-old Ripon resident Eric Smith, who first went hunting with his grandfather at age 6. “Now pig tags are $22 apiece.” 

A new approach

That’s one reason the state is now trying a different approach. Seeking to change the public perception of hunting in a state famous for promoting plant-based diets and stronger gun laws, the R3 initiative is using social media to help build a sense of connection and community. 

Similar R3 efforts across the country are connecting prospective hunters with established hunting groups, industry partners and land management organizations that educate Americans about the sport.

“Ethics around hunting are not necessarily well known by the general public,” said Jen Benedet, 36, statewide R3 coordinator at the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We’re disassociated from our food sources now,” which is why the former vegetarian only eats meat that she has hunted herself. The movement to eat locally produced food has actually been a boon for the sport. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been one of the most notable proponents of hunting for sustainable meat.

As older white men “gray out” of the sport, the state is striving to attract a new demographic, including women and minorities. The California Waterfowl Association’s “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman” program organizes shooting, hunting and fishing events for nearly 160 members in its Northern California Facebook group.

At a Morgan Hill skeet shooting event last summer, Aptos resident Pauline Shumake, a 54-year-old project manager at Apple, and Vy Nguyen, a 37-year-old product manager from Redwood City, met to shoot clay pigeons, laugh and enjoy a beer.

Catching hunting bug

Shumake learned to hunt to spend more time with her son, who was interested in trying the sport. An avid angler, Nguyen caught the hunting bug in 2017, spending a waterfowl season learning the ropes from a family friend.  

“I was the bird dog,” she said, recalling her time retrieving downed ducks in the marsh and soaking up information. Last year, Nguyen bought a rifle and harvested a cow elk on a hunt.  

Wild game cooking classes, pint nights at local bars and fishing trips are other outreach strategies used in the R3 effort across the country. For some of its programs, the California Waterfowl Association provides a guide, guns, ammo, waders, decoys and the opportunity to hunt on one of its six properties.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife also notes the popularity of its advanced hunting education classes, which attract participants from around the Bay Area. Some of the attendees have never hunted before; others are seasoned veterans. The ability to meet other Bay Area hunting enthusiasts and exchange contact information goes hand-in-hand with the chance to pluck and gut a few mallards during the class.

Some advocacy groups, however, are pleased to see a dwindling interest in hunting — and point out that there’s been a surge in other outdoor activities.

“While participation in hunting has indeed declined, wildlife-watching tourism has greatly increased,” said Samantha Hagio, director of wildlife protection at the Humane Society of the United States. 

This shift calls for a fresh look at how wilderness areas are funded, Hagio argued.

While hunters pay heavily to help fund conservation projects across the country, wildlife officials note, other outdoor enthusiasts get to use many wilderness areas for free or only a fraction of the hunters’ cost. Birders at Los Banos Wildlife Area, for example, pay $5 a day for a pass to access the trails. 

So, Hagio said, state wildlife agencies should “look for alternative sources of funding outside of hunting to reflect the interests and values of the vast majority of the public.”

Allen also is doubtful about the future of the current approach to funding. “I’m a hook and bullet guy, but I’m also a realist,” he said. “It’s the people in the state of California who are ultimately responsible for the care of their wildlife.” 

He just isn’t sure if Californians are ready to pull out their checkbooks now that the hunters have put away theirs.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. I fled California 2 plus years ago. The anti 2nd Amendment laws being a major reason. I am now in Arizona and occasionally return to the state. Out of curiosity, I went into a store and tried to buy ammunition. Since the states background check and permit fee to buy ammo in the state went into effect, a non-resident can no longer purchase ammo in the state. So, even if I was willing to pay the exorbitant non-resident hunting license fee, I would have to bring my own ammunition. Not a problem for someone driving, but if you’re flying in, it could be a real pain. In the mid 1980’s I managed a motel in Imperial County and had dove hunters that came from as far away as New York in the US and Germany and Japan to hunt dove.

  2. Mary Cunningham says

    Those that want to put a stop to hunting need a lesson on what happens to areas that have an overpopulation of deer etc. Mass starvation. More people in California -Less area for wildlife and famine for the animals. Thinning of the herds is a benefit. This attack on hunting has been going on a long time. Try to get an article on a hunting organization such as ducks unlimited into a city paper. It dos not happen. The save the trees people have caused overgrown forests that burn. The save bambie etc groups have hurt the things they love via ignorance. We elect the controlling ignorant.

    • Amen. This article feigns a concern about hunting. Blame the victim. Cite HSUS. Really a tacit media hit to attempt to finish off hunting once and for all.

  3. I have been hunting in California since I was about 10 years old. I have had a hunting license almost all of my adult life. I am not going to buy my hunting license or deer, bear or pig tags this year. I have had enough of anti-gun, anti-hunting California. If I do decide to hunt this year it will be out of state. If the state loses their grants to fund wildlife and habitat restoration they have no one to blame but themselves. The next time you meet an anti-hunting anti-gun liberal, ask them if they have ever heard of the Pittman-Robertson Act which hand fees on hunting and fishing license holders to fund public fishing and hunting habitat….! Maybe these liberals can stick their heads farther up their ass than they already have it….!

  4. Killing wildlife is not genuine conservation of wildlife species that belong to everyone, not just those who want a trophy. And for people who consider themselves conservatives to advocate for more hunting appears to be an oxymoron of the highest irony since they aren’t conserving anything, just permanently destroying.

    Nature knows how to self balance based on habitat and food sources; it doesn’t need hunters indiscriminately killing species, disrupting wildlife families or artificially raising numbers so they have more of a given species to kill. They do not engage in ‘sport,’ which suggests equally equipped and matched opponents.

    As for the tired and completely inaccurate argument that “hunters pay all the bills,” Pittman-Robinson and Dingell-Johnson collect money primarily from the sale of weapons and ammunition. Since there are an unknown number of gun owners that likely exceed the 100 million mark, but only 13 million hunters nationwide, one cannot logically assume that all +100 million support wildlife killing by trophy seekers.

    The paltry fees paid by hunters and trappers to state wildlife agencies, which have an incestuous relationship with one another, doesn’t begin to compensate the general, non-hunting public for the loss of its wildlife; there is no severance fee, as is paid by oil and gas producers.

    Wildlife is to be held in perpetuity and for the benefit of all the public, not just for the wildlife killers.

    Finally, don’t pat yourself on the back that you are restoring habitat and building herds when you plan to kill the animals you claim to be altruistically “helping.”

    If the world visited slaughterhouses, it would become vegetarian en masse.

    • It’s not your place to dictate your opinions to others that hold opposite opinions. In reality you and your ilk could care less about the wildlife and are using your fake concern to obtain more control and tax money.

Speak Your Mind

*