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Hunters? A biologist confronts the issue of slobs

Jack Whitman

(Webmaster's note:  This article has previously appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner and the Alaska Outdoor Council newsletter)

I consider myself a hunter. I’ve hunted for food, for recreation, and for peace of mind for almost 4 decades, most of that time in Alaska. I’m intimately involved in hunting, both professionally (for 35 years a biologist) and personally in my everyday life. I’m proud of that heritage which has been handed down through the generations. I’ll do what I can to maintain it for my children and for their children.

At the periphery of my consciousness have been the nay-sayers. Sure, I’m aware of the “other” faction out there that’s against hunting. The finger-pointing at the knuckle-dragging Cretins that are the so-called “slob hunters”. Up to this point, I’ve not taken too much notice. After all, these slobs are in the great minority, and their despicable actions shouldn’t be a reflection on me. Sure, I can’t help but notice the garbage and the spent shell casings at the Chena Pump boat launch. I’ve even filled my pick-up with it a couple times and hauled it to the transfer site. I can’t help but notice that virtually every road sign up the Steese is riddled with holes. I’ve always opined that the perpetrators of such things are not “hunters”, they’re simple vandals. I’m not to be confused with “them”.

However, two actions have recently occurred that sadly, have made it personal. Is this the wave of the future on a grand scale, or is this just a select few Fairbanks “hunters” that I’ve had the recent misfortune to encounter?

As part of my job, I work with hawks, owls, and falcons. One of the things I do to gather ecological data on owls is put up artificial nest boxes to look at timing of reproduction, food selection, and other things associated with boreal owls. Last week, as I was dragging my extension ladder up to the base of an aspen on the Steese Highway, I found an adult female boreal owl dead beneath the box. There were spent .22 casings scattered about, and the box was riddled with holes. The six eggs in the box, obviously, were cold. I shake my head and wonder at the mentality of the “hunter” who would enjoy bagging a trophy box tacked twenty feet up on a tree, as well as it’s occupant and her progeny. These things eat voles. They’re not competing with humans for grouse, hares, or moose. Where is the sense in this? I shake my head at the mentality of this great “hunter”, and go about my business. But I reflect on it several times, wondering at the motivation behind the actions.

The second scenario hit a bit closer to home. Saturday morning I went out for a load of firewood in upper Rosy Creek. I was grunting up the hill to my truck with a nice spruce round when a couple of shots rang out. My 13-yr-old Lab, carrying a stick in her mouth, long tail, floppy ears, and a new bright red collar, 100 feet up the hill from me, let out a yip as she was blown to the ground. I dropped what I was carrying and ran to her. She was dead.

On the logging road opposite me, 200 yards away, I hear two vehicle doors slam and a red pickup truck was frantically backing out of there. I ran down to my truck, chased them up the road and on in to town. Probably good that I didn’t catch up with them. Were they bear hunters that mistook her for a blackie? I can only speculate. They obviously were completely gutless. I’ve had that dog since she was 49 days old. She’s been a good buddy for a lot of years through thick and thin. She had another couple of grouse seasons in her, until a couple of “hunters” changed all that…

The point I’m trying to make should be obvious. The ethical hunter (are we now in the minority?) needs to take some action against these slobs. We’re going to slowly erode away our ability to continue hunting. I don’t blame the anti-hunting factions that point out what a bunch of slobs hunters are. The Troopers and Fish and Game employees can’t be everywhere. You (we) see a guy off-loading garbage into a roadside ditch, bagging a trophy road sign, sluicing a grouse on a busy road, neglecting to notch his moose tag, or pulling in a couple extra fish, we need to report it. If we don’t, I’m scared that I’m going to lose one of the activities that is passionately near and dear to my heart.

And if you’re the “hunter(s)” in the red truck, I’m looking…
 

Jack Whitman is a biologist with wide experience in Alaska and the Russian Far East.  He works for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
 

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