Letter to the Editor: Hunting procedure raises concern

The president has sounded the seriousness of COVID-19. Our governor has reacted aggressively to the guidelines established by fellow governors. Yet within his administration the Fish and Wildlife section of DNREC seem to have cast a blind eye to the seriousness of this pandemic.

Though often overlooked, the F&W section is invaluable in handling the states wildlife, fish, and game health and well-being as well as management of thousands of acres of public land within the state. Much of the funding to this section comes directly from licensing of watercraft, fees from licensing, tags, and stamps sold to hunters and indirectly from Pittman-Robertson Funding paid from excise taxes levied on hunters, fishermen, and boaters. This alone should make it incumbent on the division to react to hunters’ concerns.

That concern manifests itself with the impending wild turkey season which begins April 11.

Though a tertiary game species for revenues behind whitetail deer and waterfowl, the setup is a “personal check-in” for detailed records keeping. Even our deer are registered by a simple phone call or completing a computer-generated form online.

The possibility of hunters gathering during the state quarantine mandates on “personal spacing” was brought up, and we were told the check-in stations would be unmanned and done on the honor system. Yet there are still concerns about multiple hunters arriving simultaneously or communal sharing of rulers, clipboards, pencils, and cards that would have to be separated and taken by the hunter.

With the employment of state programmers, it is ludicrous to claim the cost of writing an effective turkey hunt program as a reason for continuing with the current format.

Hunters are inherently egregious individuals who relish telling their stories as they gather. Why does this matter have to be a concern of a hunter when the state employs paid, educated professionals who should be advancing innovative processes?

George Roof

Deer registration includes harvest tags with the license and that is not the case yet for turkeys, so deer registration vs. turkey registration is different. DNREC’s focus is a proactive and preventative approach to keep our communities and employees safe during the pandemic. Hunting is considered a non-essential recreational activity in which safe social distancing can be maintained. The maximum number of hunters who visited a given checking station on a single day last year was 20 hunters over a 7.5-hour period. At most we can expect that there would be two hunters at a checking station at a given time. To ensure hunters can keep at least six feet from others, we have implemented self-registration at check stations. As we considered all the options and whether to open the season at all, we weighed many factors, including data accuracy, hunter behavior, implementation time, legal requirements – and most importantly – concern for the health of our hunting community. We decided the self-registration station was the option to best meet all these considerations.” – Nikki Lavoie, Chief of Public Affairs, DNREC