Yesterday I was complaining to my wife that we don’t have room in the freezer, and she was telling me that we would have plenty of room if it wasn’t all taken up by venison. This defines the typical scope of our arguments concerning hunting. She’s a hell of a rifle shot my wife, (better than me really) and has done more than her share of vermin extermination in the past, but since we live in New Jersey where rifles are illegal for hunting, if she wanted to go with me she would really have to learn to use a bow, like I did last year. Of course all that might change soon if our rulers in Trenton have their way.
In New Jersey, everything is about politics. The assembly would be happy to “reform” Newton’s third law of motion if they could get some minority group to support with their PAC. And in truth, hunting can be a controversial topic everywhere that people don’t mind ignoring a little science. So in keeping with our state’s glorious traditions, they have once again proven that there is nowhere that they can ignore facts quite as well as in Trenton NJ.
The regulations for hunting in NJ are decided each year by a group called the “NJ State Fish and Game Council” which is part of the “Department of Conservation”. The council is made up of commercial fisherman, hunters, farmers, and a public member “knowledgeable in land use management and soil conservation practices”, all chosen from around the state, and who are all guided in their decisions by the wildlife population studies from the biologists at the conservation department. In other words, it’s a group made up of the various interested parties, who are guided each year by the actual data concerning the wildlife numbers and fishery statistics gathered throughout the year and from around the state.
But since there isn’t a single professional politician involved in the decision making process, for New Jersey, that just won’t do.
Mike Panter, one of the Democratic Party drones from sector 7G, has proposed that we do away with the current council and replace it with a new council made up predominantly of appointees from the governor. You see, much to the dismay of animal rights groups, the council which decides hunting regulations doesn’t have a single member who is politically pre-disposed to a statewide ban on hunting, regardless of the consequences. Mr. Panter’s proposal would change that by making the members of the council subject to “political reality” rather than “actual reality”. And to any NJ politician, this seems a much better solution because it allows the politicians to be more directly involved in the decisions whether they know something about what’s being decided or not. And what could be better than that?
Although to be completely fair, Panter’s not exactly a visionary. He’s just a lowly democratic machine “party hack” that makes his way in the world by trying to avoid controversy while still keeping his name in the paper. One look at his blog will tell you that he’s little more than a stuffed suit with a D next to his name, who has a penchant for moving his mouth without saying anything. And like most of the people in Trenton, he’s figured out that one of the most reliable routes to success in NJ is to make a career out of carefully saying as little as possible.
The truth is, I’m confident that he doesn’t really care about this issue or believe that it’s really going to solve anything, but probably thinks that’s no reason to not legislate it. In fact, he strikes me as one of those guys who doesn’t really care about much of anything at all other than the advancement of his own political career. And I think he’s only put this idea forward because it was his name that came up when the party bosses were discussing it. You see he lives in an area that doesn’t have a lot of hunting or fishing (at least compared to other areas), so he’s not on anyone’s hit list. And this idea has been rattling around the legislature in one form or another ever since the Democrats retook the majority, so I’m pretty confident that he’s just the latest part of the machine to push it forward.
There are a few other facts being ignored in this process as well. The anti-hunting lobby in NJ goes to some effort to portray all hunters as working toward the extinction of our natural resources everywhere, but nothing could be further from the truth. For example, without hunters and the money that the industry generates, the Alaskan Brown Bear would have certainly been wiped out by now by ranchers who would quickly grow tired of losing their stock to them. In NJ as well as Alaska, it’s the hunting lobby and the hunting industry that are the most effective advocates for the protection of our natural resources.
Even internationally, in those areas of Africa which allow hunting of leopards, when one is found the locals are careful to protect it, especially if it has young. The reason is that they know that eventually a rich man will be along who will pay major dollars to hunt it, so if it costs them a few goats to keep it protected and allow it to breed, that’s all worth it to them. The wildlife becomes an asset for them, an investment, and they do what they can to ensure its survival and propagation. But in areas where there is no hunting allowed, the leopard only represents a cost to the locals, so it’s quietly and quickly exterminated. This is a common theme anywhere where hunting has been banned.
And in New Jersey, if the “bloodsport trophy hunters” on the “Fish and Game council” are trying to manage NJ deer to extinction, as anti-hunting advocate would have us believe, then they are certainly making a hash of it. Because of the demographic reduction in the number of hunters in the state, even highly urbanized areas like Union county have an average of 180 deer per square mile. This is staggering when compared to the 35 deer per square mile in neighboring Pennsylvania, where there is a longer hunting season and fewer restrictions and regulations. And according to a NJ department of Transportation study done in 1995, those massive deer populations do an estimated $38,000,000 dollars in damage every year across the state. Those costs are largely paid by all of us in the form of higher insurance rates.
Also on a more personal note, the single largest buck I’ve ever seen was spotted on an October morning three years ago in my suburban back yard under a tree. (I still have a shed from it, which my wife found next to our pool, a few weeks later)
So the world will spin on it’s axis, the birds will sing, the bees will buzz, and the politicians in Trenton, will find another tiny way to take greater control of our lives. Since the anti-hunting PAC has spoken, they’re prepared to ignore anything they have to because it serves their broader goals. In New Jersey the politicians think we’re all too stupid to make our own decisions anyway and those slack jawed, gap toothed hunters are just the worst (and most heavily armed) of a bad lot. They’d rather let future decisions be made by someone who knows where their political bread is buttered, and that will put them firmly in control.
This will cause other problems of course as the deer population skyrockets out of control, but that will be an excellent excuse to empower more control by the legislature. It’s clear that they’ve long believed that there is no problem that can’t be solved by throwing a bunch of taxpayer money at it, and rather than allowing hunting which actually raises money for the state, their likely solution would be to hire a company (preferably one owned by a large political contributor) to come and shoot the deer instead. It will be expensive for the taxpayers, but hey… it’s not like it’s their money so why not spend it?
But on the bright side, it looks like we’ll finally have a little space in my freezer.