- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 8, 2009

Not every reader was happy with my Jan. 7 column about a Northern Virginia neighborhood group that hopes to end all duck hunting along a Potomac River section because it fears the hunters pose a danger to hikers and visitors.

Even though the duck hunters are a safe distance from any human traffic and there has never been an accident or dangerous incident reported, it doesn’t seem to matter to the Friends of Dyke Marsh, a citizens group with members who live near the Potomac River’s Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, just south of Old Town Alexandria. They want the hunting stopped, even though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries approved it.

John Regan, who said he was not a member of the Dyke Marsh organization or any other advocacy group, wrote: “I read your column regarding Dyke Marsh hunting [and] find it interesting that you decry the advocacy of concerned residents as being selfish, yet your main contention is that the rules should be drawn along the lines that are advocated by hunters. In essence, isn’t this saying, ‘When the hunters make up their minds, the only thing that matter are their wishes’? And to heck with what concerned residents want, right? Quite the double standard you are proposing.”

Regan added, “It became clear that it is you who appear to be selfish, inflexible and prejudiced.” Regan thought the column was unprofessionally presented and made me look foolish.

On the other hand, there was Evan Phelps, who wrote: “Thank you for taking the time to give fair treatment to the Dyke Marsh hunting issue in your article. As a duck hunter, I find that it is increasingly difficult to get a fair shake. I’m but one of many that have been working hard to get the facts on the table, but it seems that the facts are unimportant. Your article was a breath of fresh air.”

Phelps said a comment page on the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Web site contained a number of anti-hunting messages. Someone in the Virginia Legislature saw it, and now Senate Joint Resolution No. 322 has been offered, “establishing a joint subcommittee to study waterfowl hunting in urban and suburban areas.” Among other things, it proposes to study the effect of waterfowl hunting on recreational boaters/kayakers.

“Now, I ask you, what kind of person goes kayaking before sunlight in the winter months when the waterfowl seasons are open?” Phelps said. “In all, it appears to be the prelude to an unwarranted ban on waterfowling.”

Sean Signore wrote: “Finally, someone in the media gets it. It’s a shame [regarding] the comments the antis were making. They surely don’t have a clear and factual base to make [them].”

Signore pointed out that he’s the youth director of the Northern Virginia Chapter of Delta Waterfowl and that he and the young people who belong to this group cleaned up Dyke Marsh not long ago, removing 90 large bags that they filled with trash.

“We did this to show that we care about the environment,” he wrote. “As far as I know, we never received a thank you from [the Friends of Dyke Marsh].”

Then there was duck hunter Jeff Browning, who wrote: “Thank you. I appreciate you expressing the facts we are dealing with here. I fear we will be having a constant battle against the antis here in Northern Virginia.”

Finally, duck hunter Mark Crain wrote, “You are the only writer in the local media to give the hunters’ side of the story, and I really appreciate it.”

c Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/sports.

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