Public apathy runs rampant among state anglers and hunters. Ooops, I'm sorry, I thought many of you knew what the word meant.
The American Heritage dictionary describes apathy as "a lack of emotions of feelings; a lack of interest in things generally found exciting, interesting, or moving."
So where does old Dave Richey come off saying that many anglers and hunters are apathetic? It's true. Look around, and you'll find people who never get involved. Few people want to fight the good fight for proper fish and game management. A serious problem with such problems is they all take time to solve.
Time and money. Today's sportsman is about tapped out, money-wise. Finding a sawbuck to send to some organization may mean cutting other corners. It's easier for people to turn their back, look the other way, and forget about donating money or time to a worthwhile cause.
My wife and I often contribute in one way or another. We often donate $1,000 during the year in fishing or hunting books. It never seems to make much difference when we file our tax forms, but it makes us feel good when we do make a generous donation to a worthy outdoor cause.
The dove issue is a case in point. Apathy reigned supreme on this issue that was vitally important to all sportsmen, regardless of whether they hunted doves or not. How many hunters are willing to stand up for legalized dove hunting in this state? If we won't stand for doves, how about bow hunting?
Apparently, not many. Many bird-lovers, and I am one, were against shooting doves. That's where me and the bird-lovers parted company.
I spend lots of money each year to feed song birds, but I'm interested in hunting doves and there is no logical rationale for not doing so. There's no scientific reason not to have a dove season. Voting against the dove bill won't save any of the birds that fly south where dove hunting is a family tradition. Hunters of all stripes must stand together or fall separately.
The last time hunters shook off the yoke of apathy was during the black bear referendum during the mid-1990s when we soundly trounced the anti-hunters at the polls. Since then, the thought of sound scientific wildlife management seems to have disappeared from the vocabulary of many people, even those within state government who should know better.
Does anyone besides me care that the dove issue is, in part, as bad as what the anti-hunters tried to do when bear hunting was forced to a public vote. I wrote 18 stories for The Detroit News prior to the bear referendum vote, and helped bring this bear issue to the attention of state residents. It was a daily argument with my editors whenever I wanted to write another bear article.
I refused to cave in to apathy. I stood up, faced the challenge, spoke out in seminars and editorials in the newspaper. Presented with the facts, people voted the correct way ... for sound scientific management.
Does public apathy extend into fishing. Of course. Consider that several years ago the Lake Huron salmon fishery took a big belly smacker. That fishery is coming back but few writers other than me write about salmon fishing near Rogers City. The fish disappeared several years ago, and so did the alewives that fed the big fish.
Oddly, a few people groused about the status of Lake Huron salmon, but they simply came running over to Lake Michigan to fish. Other than a few squabbles, there has been no great hue and cry to determine how the wheels fell off that Lake Huron salmon fishery.
We lost not only the salmon fishing, and the alewife forage base back then, but some of the anglers as well. Where is the emotion? Where are those people with fire in their belly who want to know why such things happen?
Has the majority of Michigan sportsmen become too laid back, too wishy-washy on resources, too lazy or non-caring to get involved. Have sportsmen become too complacent?
Where are the sportsmen who used to stand up and be heard on these weighty issues? Where are the passionate anglers when outdoor writers inform them of pending changes? They shrug their shoulders, and keep griping about the perceived high cost of fishing or hunting licenses.
Any resident who cannot pay the going rate for a Michigan fishing or hunting license should examine their personal finances. They may wish to eliminate one night of bowling, a Saturday 18-hole golf outing with their friends, or giving the kids $20 each so they can crawl the malls. A fishing or hunting license grants sportsmen the right to fish or hunt all 12 months of the year.
Those who find a state fishing or hunting resident license too expensive should check and see how much residents pay in other states. We have a bargain, but few sportsmen take this seriously ... until a problem occurs.
Instead of helping out, they may be curled up on the couch with a cold brew. They may have shifted their outdoor interests to golfing or tennis. They may have sold their boats and moved on to something else without making a peep in defense of fishing and hunting.
About two years ago the DNR took their dog-and-pony show about deer numbers on the road, and one meeting I attended in Cadillac may have had 300 people present. Were only 300 people from the Cadillac area interested in speaking their mind about the lousy deer seasons of late? Were they the only deer hunters who cared?
Apparently so. Many sportsmen I talk to say that others could speak for them. Yeah, right! Folks, it takes gutty people, and lots of them, to argue with the DNR and their deer policies or to stand up for dove hunting.
You see, the DNR listens to the squeaky wheels. If you don't speak up, and squawk about things you think are wrong, you are apathetic. You are without emotion on the topic of deer hunting, dove hunting, or whatever.
I've written about it dozens of times, and have squawked mightily to the DNR's Wildlife Division about the inequity suffered by Region II landowners. Turkey hunters in Region III (the southern Lower Peninsula) and Region 1 (Upper Peninsula) have been offered private landowner tags for the first and second early-season turkey tags.
I ask you: How many of you who live in Region II get a first or second-season turkey tag? How many of you get a ZZ-type tag for use only on private land? The answer is no one gets them for the northern Lower Peninsula counties, but we who own property have little chance of drawing one of these coveted general first or second-season tags. They go to down-staters who come up, trespass, and leave. Those of us who own land, and have turkeys on our land, are not about to let someone with a first or second-season tag hunt our land if we have the third-season hunt.
Are you griping to the area DNR wildlife biologist? If not, you should get out and demand a ZZ-type season such as those enjoyed in the other two regions of the state.
I believe in most things the DNR does, and have always been first to praise them for a job well done. I'm also one of the first when they drop the ball on deer management, cutting Region II turkey hunters out of a chance for a private-land turkey tag during the early season. It makes me wonder who is running the DNR -- trained biologists or private citizens on the Natural Resources Commission or private-interest folks.
This is not a personal crusade against the DNR or against apathetic people. This is meant to educate sportsmen who seemingly do not care about our lakes and streams, our fish and wildlife, our forests and other natural resources. I perhaps care too much, and have lost touch with what really happens to our natural resources.
However, I was brought up to fight for what I believe in. I believe in proper management of our natural resources, and those people who utilize those resources and those who don't. I strongly believe that apathy, if nothing else, will kill fishing and hunting long before they would normally disappear.
Apathy. A six-letter word. One that quite accurately depicts a large segment of our angling and hunting fraternity. Many folks are content with whatever the DNR gives them, and they never snarl or speak a harsh word when our appointed or elected officials make a ugly stew out of something that should be easily managed.
If you don't speak up, never complain to me about those things you and others have lost. I never listen to apathetic people. Sorry!