Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The distance from New Jersey to Virginia is about 200 miles, give or take a few. However, looking at the recent actions taken by New Jersey’s highest court, the distance might as well require space travel.

New Jersey’s Supreme Court last week refused to consider an emergency injunction that would have forced the state to conduct a bear hunt that was supposed to have started Monday.

Virginia, on the other hand, went a completely different direction when a federal judge refused to listen to demands by animal rights activists who wanted to stop a bear hunt in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

The New Jersey decision to stop a bear hunt was purely driven by emotional rhetoric, discarding all scientific evidence that the hunt actually was needed to control the state’s burgeoning bear population. Despite considerable support from the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, Safari Club International and the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and scientifically sound recommendations made by wildlife professionals, the hunt was stopped by Lisa Jackson, a commissioner at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Jackson’s reason? She doesn’t care for hunters — bear hunters, in particular.

Although it was widely questioned whether Jackson had the authority to stop the hunt, the state’s Supreme Court decided not to act, thus effectively putting an end to the hunt.

Meanwhile, last Thursday in Virginia, U.S. District Judge Henry Morgan denied an emergency injunction filed by anti-hunting groups that included In Defense of Animals and the Animal Welfare Institute.

The judge listened to and read the procedures established by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and found the Great Dismal Swamp NWR bear hunt “would not cause irreparable damage” to the refuge’s bear population as the animal rightists — without scientific basis — claimed it would.

In the style of the recent Maryland black bear hunt, a limited number of hunters — in this case, 58 — were selected to participate in a two-day hunt that began Friday. Animal rights activists have fought for years to stop hunting, fishing and trapping on federal wildlife refuges, but it seems that in Virginia they will have to do more than present emotional rhetoric.

It might work in the Garden State but not in the Old Dominion.

Maryland deer kill up slightly — With the season not yet over, it’s interesting to note Maryland deer hunters had a fine opening weekend, aided by exceptionally good weather, moist ground that allowed the hunters to make less noise and, of course, an ever-growing state-wide deer herd.

Hunters bagged 17,231 deer during the opening weekend of the firearms season, 80 more than during the first two days in 2005. The reported take of antlered deer went up from 7,956 deer last year to 8,019 this year, while the antlerless deer kill increased from 9,195 last year in the first two days to 9,210 this year.

What is the significance of this? Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, all of Maryland’s deer seasons for bow and gun users couldn’t produce more than 9,000 whitetails. Nowadays, about 50,000 deer will be taken home by hunters.

Use the Web to find hunting places — If you’re looking for a shooting preserve to hunt birds, use the Internet instead of driving around trying to find a kind landowner who will grant you permission to hunt. Doug Painter, the president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, says his group now offers WingshootingUSA.org, which is a free online directory of places to hunt. You will find more than 1,000 daily-fee preserves, which suits many busy people who don’t have the time to locate a friendly farmer who wants to set up a lease or free hunting arrangement.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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