Outdoors: Some changes just don't make sense

Posted: Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Funny how some things change from time to time and in some cases for no real apparent reason. I'm sure each one of you can think back how you used to be able to hunt or fish without any restrictions regardless of what part of the country you are from.

I grew up in west central Wisconsin (the dairy state), which was pretty well made up of low income farm families. Fishing and hunting was something that nearly every family member did regardless of age. Often times meals were served that included fresh caught fish or various small game as well as meat from the state's abundant deer herd.

Nearly every farm had free ranging chickens that provided that farm family with fresh eggs as well as meat in the fall. You could also bet that every grainery or several of the sheds had shot guns that were placed in a safe but strategic location for the farmer to protect his birds from predators. What were the predators that they were protecting them from you ask? Fox, raccoon, possum, weasel, but perhaps the biggest threats were owls and red-tailed hawks. Eagles were not much of a problem in more recent years as they were thinned out almost to point of extinction in the lower 48 at one point.

The Endangered species act of 1973 made it illegal to shoot predator birds of any kind including crows and ravens. It is also illegal to even possess the feathers of these birds unless you fall under the native section of this act. There is some clause in there about "unless they are about to do damage." I am not sure if this applies to all these birds or mainly crows. In any event the late outdoors writer for the Eau Claire Leader Telegram Jim Fisher once asked how you were to know they were about to do damage? Mr. Fisher went on to say "You ask them!"

In the spring each year the local people used to take advantage of the black sucker runs in the small streams as well as the red horse which would spawn in the rivers. These rough fish were canned, smoked and pickled each year by the thousands. Yes they were even canned to make them taste like salmon! I personally took more then 200 of these fish out of Bridge Creek each year, mainly to provide us with pickled fish for the whole year.

Then our department of Natural Resources named Bridge Creek a class A trout stream and it became against the law to take black suckers out of the creek till after trout season opened. By that time the spawn was over and the fish were long gone, back in the Dells Pond. I phoned the DNR and asked them to assist us in the taking out of these black suckers each spring so we could harvest them which in turn would help the trout habitat but was rudely told no. In fact I was told " You can't even walk in that stream anymore until trout season opens!" Even though the water temperature of the creek was too warm for the trout to spawn (one of the requirements for a trout stream to be classified as a class A trout stream) the DNR refused to budge. Some things at times just don't seem to make any sense to us outdoorsmen at all. Yes we still always had our black suckers to eat each spring and if you're ever in Augusta Wisconsin ask the locals if they ever heard of "The Augusta Sucker Federation" and watch some of the locals smile! And as Forrest Gump said "And that is all I am going to say about that!"

Imagine here in Alaska if the Fish and Game said we are going to stop salmon fishing of any kind in the Kenai River because we want to make this a class A trout stream. Would you guys and gals all stop going immediately? I think it would be a tough law to enforce and I don't think you would be very happy about such a situation. But yet we all want to be law-abiding citizens too.

One farmer in Wisconsin was complaining about eagles swooping down and grabbing his free ranging baby pigs and the DNR told him "Put your pigs inside like everyone else does!" Now I don't think the paper would print what this outraged and frustrated farmer had to say about that situation.

I was told a few days ago about three eagles swooping down after a moose calf near Kasilof. A brown bear killed a moose calf in a yard in Eagle River recently and a family filmed part of the gruesome ordeal. Another one was swept away by the current of the Kenai River out to Cook Inlet a few days ago. Should we pass laws now to protect these calves from eagles, bears and also the Kenai River? No of course not but I do think we should be allowed to protect our own property from predators of any kind.

Now I don't totally agree with all the laws we have protecting predator birds as I think everything needs to have an enemy of some kind to keep the numbers under control. However I have to admit I think there are a whole lot more predator birds in the lower 48 than ever before. I even have a picture from our farm that had 10 eagles sitting in one of our fields. I also counted 33 hawks in the same area. What were they feeding on you ask? Well it wasn't black suckers but I can tell you Raccoon season was open but then again I'm not sure eagles eat raccoon meat either. Maybe they were just there for a photo shoot! Quoting Forrest Gump once again "That is all I'm going to say about that!" In my own words, I will see you next week!

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