Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 17, 2013

OUTDOOR COLUMN: Support builds for sportsmens’ rights

By LOUIE STOUT
THE GOSHEN NEWS

GOSHEN — In case you haven’t heard, Indiana sportsmen are closer to having a Constitutional right to fish and hunt.

Wait a minute, you say; don’t we already have that right?

Of course we do. But backers of proposed legislation at the statehouse believe nailing those rights to the constitution gives sportsmen protection from anti-hunting groups that would dearly love to deny those rights.

The Indiana Senate passed SJR 0007 by a 38-10 vote this week, sending the proposed amendment to the House for its approval. If passed, Hoosiers will vote on it in next year’s state election.

It likely will. The same proposal sailed through the General Assembly two years ago. Under law, a Constitutional amendment must be approved by two separate Legislatures before going on a statewide ballot.

The proposed amendment “Provides that the people have a right to hunt, fish, harvest game, or engage in the agricultural or commercial production of meat, fish, poultry, or dairy products, which is a valued part of our heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good, subject to laws prescribed by the general assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the general assembly. Provides that hunting and fishing are the preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. Provides that this constitutional amendment does not limit the application of any laws relating to trespass or property rights.”

If successful, Indiana would join 17 states that have added similar constitutional amendments in recent years.

Oddly enough, Michigan, one of the nation’s most popular hunting and fishing states, isn’t one of them.

Bill sponsor Senator Brent Steele, R-Bedford, said the amendment would protect Indiana’s $8 billion a year in agricultural products sold, and more than 950,000 residents who hunt or fish each year, from animal-rights groups trying to impose more limits. The amendment continues to give authority to state agencies to regulate hunting and fishing.  

“You think (anti-groups) haven’t spread their tentacles?” Steele said in an Associated Press story this week. “I merely ask you to go to your computers and look them up.”

If the referendum goes public, expect heavily financed anti-groups to bombard the state with a media campaign filled with lies and misconceptions to sway votes of those who don’t fish and hunt.

Antis spent millions a few years ago when a dove hunting referendum was defeated on Michigan ballot.

Stay tuned.

License changes coming?

Southwest Michigan wildlife Biologist Steve Chadwick hinted at some major license changes coming.

In a media note this week, Chadwick said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s new budget proposal calls for a change in the state’s license structure and fees.

“Currently we have over 200 license types for hunters and anglers to navigate and the governor has asked us to bring that to 31,” said Chadwick. “Secondly, some fees will change which is expected to bring an additional $18 million in DNR coffers.”

Although specific details have yet to be ironed out, it’s likely there will be one license to cover both inland and trout and salmon. Of course, that means that inland anglers who don’t fish trout and salmon will be expected to pay considerably more.

Hunters might see similar changes, such as they will buy a basic hunting license and add whatever tags – deer, turkey, bear, etc. – on top of that.

Fee increases, Chadwick noted, will boost the state’s matching dollars for federal funding. The Wildlife Restoration act and the Sport Fish Restoration Act returns $3 in federal money to states for every $1 they put up.

Both of those funds are derived from federal excise taxes applied on sporting equipment at the retail level. Those excise tax collections are then allocated to states based upon their respective number of paid licenses.

The funds must be dedicated to fish and wildlife projects, including research, surveys and public access development.

“With the increase in gun and ammunition sales this year, we expect more money being made available to the states next year,” Chadwick explained.

Before a state can claim its allotment on a project, it must cover one third of the costs from its own money. For simplicity sake, say Michigan is offered $9 million in Wildlife Restoration Act funds, it must ante $3 million of its own.

Increasing license revenue will make that more feasible.

There may be a glitch, however.

Chadwick says if Congress allows the Federal Budget Control Act “Sequester” go through in a couple of weeks, all of that excise money will be lost.

Don’t you just love politics?

Lunker’s signup

The general public can begin signing up Monday for next summer’s annual Lunker’s Bass tournament on Eagle/Juno lakes.

The tournament will be held Aug. 3. Entry fee is $110 per team. Starting position is based upon the order entries are received. Call Lunkers, 269-663-3745, for details.

Classic night

Beef O’ Brady’s will host its 5th annual Bassmaster Classic Party next Sunday at the Granger restaurant.     Live coverage of bass fishing’s world championship finals will be streamed from Bassmaster.com onto the big screen TV in the restaurant. The weigh-in will start at approximately 5:30 p.m., South Bend time.

Bassmaster Classic competition starts Friday on Grand Lake O’ Cherokees, some 90 miles from Tulsa, Ok., where the indoor weigh-ins will be conducted at BOK Center.

Beef O’ Brady’s will provide free chips and salsa while supplies last. Anglers are encouraged to bring tournament schedules to share with others, fishing photos to post on a braggin’ board, and any used bass fishing tackle they might want to trade or sell.

For more information, call Rick Kedik, 269-240-4917.

Wild game dinner

The Dowagiac Conservation Club will host its annual Wild Game Dinner next Saturday from noon to 3 p.m.

Adult meals consisting of venison, rabbit, elk, pheasant, squirrel, goose and other game meats prepared by club members will be served for an $8 donation or $4 for children. Beef and pork will be available as well as salads, side dishes and desserts.

Proceeds go to the club’s Youth Education Fund. For information, call Andy Parmley, 269-782-5046.

The club is located north of Dowagiac on M-51.

Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie Stout at info@louiestout.com.