Legislation plays on non-hunter emotions
Many of us in the hunting community have been keeping an eye on the progress, and fortunately lack thereof, of Assembly Bill A722, which would ban organizing and participating in hunting contests. Such bills have surfaced over the past few years without much fanfare. But with the Democrats controlling the state Legislature, anything regulating firearms and, in this case, hunting, seems to be on the table.
As New York’s legislative session winds down, it appears A722 is not going to make it out of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, although anything is possible. That’s good news for organizers of big buck contests for this coming fall and also those planning to organize coyote hunting contests early in 2020.
The killing of coyotes through hunting contests is certainly the springboard for this legislation and anything similar to it in other states. In fact, don’t be surprised if this bill resurfaces in a form that focuses mainly on coyote hunting contests as well as those of squirrels and crows, perhaps omitting big game. That remains to be seen. Just remember that it was amended to omit field trials for dogs and could certainly be tweaked further.
As the writer of a weekly outdoors column in my local newspaper, I can tell you firsthand that when it comes to hunting, and especially trapping, there is a different feeling from the non-hunting public in relation to the taking of furbearing wildlife. We run several photos throughout the year of successful hunters with deer, turkeys and small game. Occasionally we get some negative feedback over it but it is nothing compared to when we run a photo of a dead coyote and sometimes even a black bear. I’ve had some nasty diatribes come my way after showcasing successful coyote hunts, or beaver, muskrat, fisher, fox and coyote pelts headed to the fur markets.
If you have an open-minded discussion with a non-hunter, as opposed to an anti-hunter, you will realize that many understand the hunting of deer, turkeys and other game if they know the animal is consumed as table fare. But when it comes to animals like coyotes, sometimes bear or anything that is taken for its fur rather than for food, you may see that they don’t understand why hunters and trappers pursue these animals. It is our job to educate them.
Hunters and trappers know that furbearing wildlife populations need to be controlled, including from the predator perspective. This is what lies behind the organization of coyote hunting contests, especially in agricultural areas, in the first place. Our problem is getting our non-hunting friends to understanding this. Hunters must realize the role that the non-hunting public plays in relation to our interests. They far outnumber both us and the antis combined.
I’m afraid this is only the beginning of this debate, battle or whatever you may call it. The bottom line is that this and other types of anti-hunting legislation remain on the horizon. Animals like coyotes and other furbearing species are easy targets (pun intended) for the anti-hunting community that greatly wants to chip away at hunting and trapping opportunities wherever and whenever possible because they know they can play on the emotions of otherwise neutral non-hunters. Keeping the non-hunting public informed and in support of hunting and trapping is they key to halting legislation like A722.