Saturday, September 19, 2009

What's going on with me...

Actually not much, at least online. I have been mostly absent for several days while I was taking a short course offered by the Virginia Dept. of Wildlife and Inland Fisheries.

Technically the course is on Hunter Safety, and I wanted to take it because I live in a heavily wooded mountainous area now over-populated by deer. That means hunters will be out in force when the various seasons open, and I wanted to know the rules about hunting near people and public roads for my own protection.

To my delight, the course covers a lot of conservation efforts in my state, and emphasis in the safety course is placed on conservation and protected species.

The tax on hunting and fishing licenses, guns, ammunition, archery and related items goes into a separate fund used for conservation and recreation. By a federal law, each state gets a share based mainly on population, amount of land and number of licenses, and must use some of it for conservation. In my state it's almost 50%.

That money pays the biologists, game wardens, stocking and wildlife re-population efforts (including fish hatcheries), disease control (i.e. rabies in wild animals), hunter safety education, and other such endeavors. The rest of that specific tax money collected is used for things like public boat ramps, woodland trails, forest roads, parks and other recreational areas.

I had no idea that those things were paid for specifically out of the tax monies charged on guns and hunting/fishing licenses. I must say I was also impressed at the game wardens' responsibilities to protect all forms of illegal hunting, and the kind/gender of game you can take. They have strict laws about how many of what gender, and when, to protect and keep the wildlife population from becoming extinct.

The fines for illegal game are incredibly high; taking something like a turkey during mating season can cost someone $2500. All game has to be immediately tagged with a chit that comes with your license, and anyone found with something like a deer without a tag can also face jail time, even if it is a deer you accidentally hit driving down the road. Failure to call the authorities in a case of hitting a deer makes you just as responsible as someone illegally hunting.

The course certainly changed my attitude about hunters, although there are always bad apples in any bunch.

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