So it’s more than surprising that Schumer has backed a proposal in the 2007 Farm Bill that would establish a voluntary public access program that could compensate landowners for opening their gates to hunters. It’s a timely and welcome idea. While the nation’s deer herd – especially white-tailed deer east of the Mississippi – has grown to nuisance levels in many places, hunters find fewer places to hunt as deer habitat is either leased or converted to subdivisions and strip malls.
This Farm Bill title recognizes hunters as effective wildlife managers, and it could substantially increase the amount of land available to us if the bill becomes law. According to the Schumer proposal, state and tribal governments could apply for federal grants to pay private farmers, ranchers and forest managers who allow anglers, hunters and wildlife watchers to use their property.
It’s not unlike the Open Fields initiative, congressional legislation that promotes public hunting on private land. And it’s not unlike the access programs of several Western states, including Wyoming’s Access Yes!, Montana’s Block Management and South Dakota’s Walk-In Program. But the Schumer proposal would use federal money, not state hunting-license dollars, to fund the incentives. That’s an overt admission that hunters matter, even that we are doing a public service by harvesting does and bucks, and that – along with private landowners – we hunters are the best resources to manage wildlife and conserve wildlife habitat.
We deer and turkey hunters owe Chuck Schumer a nod and a thanks. Just don’t tell our senator from Brooklyn that we’ll be using guns to control the nation’s deer herd.