February 2, 2023

Who Really Controls the Hunting in Your State?

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Let’s put on our “suppose” hats for a minute. A suppose hat is what today might be described as a reality simulator or something techy sounding – beyond my realm. Just suppose that in your state, the fish and game department announces the deer hunting seasons according to wildlife management districts, population management goals, etc. Within this announcement are the seasons for archery, rifle, muzzle loader, and perhaps you have seasons for crossbows, shotguns, handguns, etc.

Sounds quite normal to me and what I see, hear and read about all the time. Each states fish and game departments base these seasons and bag limits on many factors and let’s not be naive enough to think that money doesn’t play a roll as well as some politicking.

This is pretty standard policy from state to state but getting back to our suppose hats. Suppose that one county in your state decided they didn’t want to allow muzzle loader hunting. What would that do? If they did that or better yet if they could do that, would it set off a chain reaction of events all across the state? If one county did that, couldn’t another? If a county can do that, couldn’t a township? If a township could do that, couldn’t a community within the town? You get my point?

This could become a total nighmare. So, you’re saying right now, “This is stupid. Nobody does that.” Oh, yeah! Southampton County in Virginia exactly does that. It seems that the county decided they didn’t want to have a muzzle loader season for deer, even though the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says it is allowed. They set up the seasons and bag limits. It also appears that the VDGIF is turning a blind eye to this.

This is insane! When it comes to issues like managing fish and game in any state, the state has to be the ultimate authority or mayhem could rule. Setting seasons and bag limits is just one aspect of the total plan of wildlife management and those plans can’t be usurped by one county for whatever their reasons.

So why Southampton County? According to an article written by Bill Cochran, outdoor writer for the Roanoke Times, much of Southampton County is dominated by hunting clubs. These club were formed many years ago and they control a lot of the land access for hunting.

According to Cochran, Southampton County is prime deer country. Year after year trophy bucks come out of that county. In one man’s opinion, the reason is these hunting clubs do a better job of managing the deer herd. That in turn produces big bucks.

Southampton has a dog season for deer. Hunters are allowed to use hunting dogs to chase deer to a designated stand site and hunters gun the deer down with shotguns. A muzzle loader season, if carried out by state regulations, would fall two weeks prior to the shotgun/dog hunting season for deer. This presents a problem for many of the hunting clubs because they don’t want muzzle loading hunters in their county before the regular shotgun season.

I understand their reasoning, although I think it is b*$^@#!&. Every hunter who buys a license contributes dollars that go toward managing deer herds across the entire state. Excluding hunters from this county because hunting clubs don’t want to disturb the trophy deer before the shotgunners get at them, is selfish and upitty.

To confirm that statement, Cochran quotes one hunter from Southampton County as saying this:

“The citizens of our county through our board of supervisors have sought to keep muzzleloading hunting prohibited in our county for numerous reasons. Why should this be an issue outside of our county?”

There appears to be a growing number of hunters in Southampton County who are considering this form of exclusion as wrong. Many of these same hunters have taken up muzzle loader hunting and are finding they can’t use them on their own county soil. A petition with 300 names advocating that muzzle loader hunting should be allowed in Southampton County was filed, without comment, with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

It is this kind of exclusiveness attitude that contributes to any bad image that hunters seem to get some towns. It simply can’t be allowed and the VDGIF needs to get off their, I’ll leave out the expletive, and get this resolved. If Southampton County can legally do what they are doing, then the fish and game department, with much noise coming from the hunters in Virginia, need to get the proper laws passed to prohibit this behavior.

Tom Remington