It’s a strange time to be a hunter. In California, anti-hunters would rather have tax-payer money go toward managing (killing) mountain lions than allow a hunting season. In most western states, point systems were implemented to manage the amount of hunters, but point creep will make hunts prohibitive if they aren’t already. I could put in for premium elk or sheep tags for the rest of my life and never draw because I am too far behind in the point system. The Alaska system is fair. Everyone gets the same chance in the draw, even if it’s miniscule.
In some states hunt outfitters are leveraging their pull with politicians to get favorable legislation passed. States are always considering tag allocation for certain groups of species and one state is considering a 90/10 split (90% to residents, 10% to nonresidents for certain species) though nonresident hunters supply an incredible amount of revenue to the state and local communities. You can’t have it both ways.
There has always been conflict between hunting groups (local vs. nonlocal) and between different user groups (nonhunting hikers vs. hunters) but, as they always do, social media and the internet have added a toxic dynamic that doesn’t always allow for reasonable conversation.
Many people don’t listen or read to be fully informed about an idea or a point of view, they wait for a misstep in order to turn the discussion into an argument about something else or make an assumption about intent and therefore disregard the person’s perspective. I think the term “cancel” has been overused and has entered the realm of tired, but it does speak clearly to the notion that people who regard themselves as intellectually or morally superior believe they have the right to dismiss and ridicule a person for an idea, rather than disagree with the idea but remain civil to the person. There is an important distinction here. To be sure, it is the right of every person to be as courteous as they want on social media. But don’t mistake posturing to your crowd for helping.
So what is next?
Last week the Federal Subsistence Board voted 7-0 to approve a measure to close a Dall sheep hunt on the North Slope against the recommendation of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. This comes on the heels of a March 30 decision to close areas of Unit 23 and 26A to non-federally qualified users also against ADFG recommendations.
The complexity of reality makes the “I should be able to hunt wherever I want” vs. “I live here, so I should be able to hunt it exclusively” and “trust the science” vs. “let me tell you what I see” arguments between Alaskans such a difficult one to navigate.
The reduction of the nonfederally qualified bag limit from four deer to two on sections of Prince of Wales and the extra time for federally qualified users to hunt deer on Unit 2 seemed like a good faith compromise to prioritize rural hunters given the potentially fragile deer population on the island. Though my wife and I only want to eat meat and fish that we catch or kill too, it is possibly advantageous to live in non-rural Ketchikan, so we get it. At least the opportunity still exists for us to return to the island on which I grew up and hunt my favorite mountains. Shutting out fellow Alaskans entirely while undermining state biologists will only create animosity.
I am worried about rural-vs.-urban relations going forward. It is true and obvious that Alaskans vary by all sorts of degrees of measure, but one of the things we Alaskans tend to pride ourselves on, though we are flawed humans capable of being just as cruel to each other as anyone else, is we still take pride in being the antithesis of that Lower 48 bickering, unnecessary subdividing and general nastiness.
• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.