February 6, 2023

Should Fish and Game Agencies Ask Hunters for Help?

Craig Dougherty from Outdoor Life writes that fish and wildlife agencies ought to ask hunters for help with their deer management. “For years I have been arguing (and pleading) that under staffed agencies need to make better use of the millions of deer hunters who walk the woods annually. They are more than just another hunting license sale. They are an underutilized resources.”

One could offer some serious argument as to whether hunters can provide fish and wildlife biologists useful data to assist with wildlife management. I won’t waste my time. I figure that the benefits of deeper ownership far outweigh the worries of how “accurate” the information collected is. Besides, if nothing is being done, let’s say, to count winter kill of deer, which then becomes more accurate? Sitting in an office and manipulating formulas in hopes of getting an idea of how many deer died due to winter severity, or just guessing? Or calling on some willing volunteers to go into deer yards and count dead deer? It’s easy – 1, 2, 3,….

If the excuse is that because there just aren’t enough people to do all the things that should be done, one might have to ask if calling on volunteers would require hiring another person to coordinate the volunteers. After all, this is government. They, more than likely, would have to form a working task force to first determine whether being more proficient in their work is a good thing or not.

Or, maybe, the “not enough people” excuse is used for leverage to keep a job. Granted, one has to be smart enough to know how to play the game. The pros can make themselves out to appear stoic, and the answer to all things wildlife management. In addition, how does using volunteers to do “scientific” data collecting devalue the job the biologist is supposed to do?

Some data collected that normally wouldn’t get collected has to have value. However, wouldn’t the real value come from thousands of hunters taking a degree of ownership in deer management? As the writer said, “Hunters can can do all kinds of stuff and all they want for their time is a pat on the back and more good hunting opportunities the next fall.” What’s wrong with that?

And, if any wildlife agency is still looking for any excuse, consider that most states probably have a retired biologist willing to volunteer as the coordinator.