More states working to protect right to hunt

Fitzgerald Cecilio – 4E Sports Reporter

Jack, AL, United States (4E Sports) – The Alabama Dog Hunters Association, headed by Don Knight, plans to court its 10,000 members to back a proposed amendment that would enshrine the right to “hunt, fish and harvest wildlife” in the state’s constitution.

Knight is worried that animal-rights groups around the country are intent on restricting his cherished pastime by pushing measures that, for instance, would forbid the use of dogs to pursue game.

“They’re just nipping away at it any way they can,” said Knight.

Both chambers of the state legislature voted overwhelmingly earlier this spring to place the question on the November ballot. The effort, if it succeeds, would strengthen an amendment passed in 1996.

Similar efforts, which have been promoted by the National Rifle Association and sportsmen’s groups in recent years, are unfolding in eight other states, while 17, including Alabama, already have such constitutional guarantees.

A proposed amendment to create a constitutional right to hunt and fish also will appear on the November ballot in Mississippi while similar bills were introduced or carried over in Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia and four other states this year.

Some animal-rights organizations say fears of outright hunting bans are unfounded.

The amendments “are largely an overreaction to efforts that seek to curb abusive or unsporting practices,” such as using dogs to corner and tree bears, or baiting animals with food, said Michael Markarian, chief program and policy officer at the Humane Society of the U.S. “Eliminating bear baiting doesn’t mean there’s no bear hunting.”

In Maine, a ballot proposal this fall would prohibit bear hunting with bait, dogs or traps.

In California, two laws tightening hunting restrictions were signed in the past two years: one banning bear and bobcat hunting with dogs, the other use of lead ammunition.

The second law is aimed at protecting condors and other wildlife that sometimes scavenge carrion with lead fragments in it.

And a lawsuit filed by conservation groups in North Carolina last year seeks to ban coyote hunting in a region of the state populated with endangered red wolves, which are sometimes mistaken for coyotes.

Data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that hunting-license sales peaked in the early 1980s, then began to steadily decline. Researchers point to a variety of reasons, including urbanization, the shrinking availability of land for hunting and the rise of more-protective views toward wildlife.

However, the agency’s most recent national survey, conducted every five years, found that the number of hunters increased by 9% between 2006 and 2011.

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