June 3, 2023

With Eyes Wide Shut – WE BELIEVE!

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Most choose to believe that what their state’s fish and game department tells them is the truth. I think there’s a difference between belief and faith. A belief is a choice to accept something and like it, regardless of any measure of actual existence. Faith is having trust. I suppose therefore, many trust the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) in the decisions they make as they pertain to game management. I don’t believe nor do I have faith. That doesn’t mean I think they necessarily do a terrible job. There is a difference and few can see it. I will not, however, blindly accept statements and decisions without having the data to understand those decisions. And that’s part of what bugs me in dealing with the latest topic of cutting moose hunting permits. Where’s the data? Are we to blindly just accept MDIFW’s word about management goals? Why should we, especially when we are constantly getting contrary statements of fact?

I’ve pointed out before that one prominent newspaper in Maine printed an article stating that MDIFW had decided to reduce moose permits in portions of Northern Maine in order to grow more moose for moose watchers. That was followed up by one blogger who said that wasn’t true and went to work convincing readers that MDIFW was not growing moose for watching but were following their management plans. Now we have another outdoor writer faithfully standing by MDIFW swearing that any decisions to cut moose permits is based on science and adherence to the moose management plan. Where’s the data?

Does any of this matter? To me it does and it should to more sportsmen. Specifically there are two issues that frequently rear their ugly heads in media accounts that originate from MDIFW. The first is that the media provide “statements” from members of MDIFW. Those statement make a lot of claims and are never supported with data and from whence that data came. It’s easy to state that moose numbers in a particular Wildlife Management District (WMD) have met management goals, but exactly what does that mean? As I said, I refuse to blindly and ignorantly accept that statement. What is that statement based on and how was the data collected to make that decision? What is the moose population in that WMD? What is the bull to cow ratio? What is the carrying capacity? What is the management goal for that WMD and how was it arrived at? These are all important questions and few comments should be offered without having that information. When wildlife managers are allowed to get away with making statements without backing it up with scientific data, we are giving them free rein to do as they wish, which makes me wonder if that isn’t what was behind the statement that MDIFW was going to reduce moose permits in order to grow more moose for watching – certainly not a scientifically supported decision.

The second issue has to do with attitudes. I’ve written of this before. For a long time, wildlife managers seem to be caught dumping on sportsmen and other outdoor sportsmen when they provide anecdotal evidence. Odd isn’t it that if a wildlife biologist walks in the woods and sees 3 moose, it’s “scientific evidence,” and when a sportsman walks in the woods and sees 3 moose it’s “anecdotal evidence” and those statements are open season to be scoffed at, ridiculed and tossed aside.

The MDIFW has done this for so long that the media, their complicit mouthpieces, are doing their bidding for them. This is evidenced in the Bangor News article linked to above.

It’s terrible public relations to ridicule the sportsmen who pay these clowns salaries. In addition, without the hunting, fishing and trapping community, about the only thing newspaper outdoor writers would have to write about are piping plovers and counting bats. Exciting! And where would the wildlife managers be?

But, think about if for a moment. When sportsmen, many of whom spend more time in the field than most all MDIFW biologists or any other group of recreationists, comment about the numbers and health of the moose herd (or any other game species), essentially they are told to shut up because they don’t know what they are talking about. Then, when a microcosmic group, fortunate to have been able to create a spin-off business of moose watching due to the efforts and money of the sportsmen, speaks up and want more moose to boost their profits, MDIFW and the media are quick to bow down and grant them their wish. Why does this make any sense and why do we tolerate such behavior? On one hand we are told there’s no shortage of moose and then the actions tell us MDIFW would rather cater to the gawkers and Environmentalist. Why not tell them the same thing that is told to the moose hunters who are working harder to find the moose – get off your fat ass and out of the comfort of air-conditioned vans and find the moose the same way hunters do?

It’s easier to believe in men and have faith in what they do, than to discover the truth.