Sunday, July 20, 2008

Country Mouse, City Mouse

Great story on the cultural divide in this morning's paper. Apparently, residents along the Potomac River in Virginia's Fairfax County are strategically setting up duck blinds near their property in order to preclude actual duck-hunters from using them, as there are rules regulating the siting of such blinds. If the resident does not exercise their right, hunters have what is essentially a squatter's right.

Now, I don't have a strong opinion on this matter, but there are several issues at play. I am a fan of property rights, so I certainly would support a resident being able to preclude the construction of a blind on one's property. But we're talking here about areas clearly NOT the property of the resident, blinds that are sited in the river proper. I'm also a fan of sleeping late on weekends, and as someone who resides most of the time on a cove frequented by legions of waterfowl and the hunters who seek them, I can assure you that the volleys of shotguns in the morning--with the windows tightly shut--are enough to awaken one's latent Non-Combat Stress Disorder.

What I'm really interested in here is the conflict itself, and the means for its mitigation. I think it is crafty and underhanded for residents to place these blinds solely to deprive hunters of the right to do so. But I also think it is brilliant. I'm all over the map on this one, but since I don't have a stake in it, I'll just watch from afar.


Anonymous said...

Well then, as a waterfront property owner AND an avid duck hunter, I suppose I am well-qualified to enter this discussion. This action by the property owners is not unlike PeTA (I wonder why "ethical" is lower case) members who reportedly apply en masse for the 600 lottery-drawn tundra swan permits each year in Virginia. It is indeed a lower case ethical approach to apply for a permit for the sake of denying those who would enjoy this legal activity, but I must admit, I do have to give them a nod for ingenuity. What I suspect the hunters in Fairfax and other conflicted areas would do next (should do next) is to lobby the Department of Fish and Game for a revision to the regulations. Keeping in mind that the Department is chartered to preserve what is now a Commonwealth of Virginia Constitutionally-protected right, I believe the Department would be most agreeable to a revision, but the details of such a revision would have to be hammered out in a series of county council and state hearings so I suspect that the urbanite-dominated Fairfax County Council would be unlikely to support the handful of waterfowlers attempting to hunt there (not all of whom are probably even from Fairfax). Even if they were supportive, this really doesn't address the heart of the issue between the frequent city/country conflicts that arise with urban sprawl. I may be wrong, but I know of no circumstances where a farmer drove into the city and attempted to establish among the existing condominiums, traffic intersections and shopping malls, a working farm. In fact, in many cities there are zoning restrictions against owning livestock, excavating without permits etc that such an act would require. This is not the case in rural communities. Anyone can come in and establish within the agricultural communities, city-like amenities and pursue city-like activities assuming they have the money to do so and we all know the large developers have just that. What continually astounds me is when city dwellers come to rural areas, purchase usually very nice property, then begin lobbying the political bodies to restrict such disgusting activities as hunting, chicken and pig farming, etc. There is a pig farm up the road from me who came under fire a few years ago when a wealthy Norfolk transplant purchased an adjoining waterfront farm. He immediately went into political action to have the farm shut down. He was ineffective in doing so but only because the pig farmer, a true country gentleman, was so widely known and respected that the newcomer was pretty quickly black-listed throughout the community. That has not held true for the chicken farmers who form a large part of this regions culture. They've come under increasingly strict (and costly) regulation as more and more homes are constructed within the admittedly pungent aroma cloud of their chicken houses. I even saw a letter to the editor a couple years ago where the writer was complaining about the amount of chaff that had blown on her car during the wheat harvest. She had just moved here and lived next to a wheat field. It was pretty and green when she moved in but it became brown, stubbled and ugly after the harvest. The ensuing three weeks of responses were entertaining to be sure, but it is indicative of a terribly flawed mindset. Look, while it may not be the specific hunters today who were hunting there when those houses were built along the river in Fairfax county, I assure you that somebody WAS hunting when those houses were built. And if it wasn't exactly there, that is only because there was an abundance of other places in which hunters and the game they pursue could spread out that no longer exist today because there are condos, intersections and malls there now. If you are comnsidering moving to an area where there are activities that annoy you, DON'T MOVE THERE. Or better still, meet the people who are doing it and see if you can join them. You might just acquire a life-long passion and some very good friends. Failing those two options, may I suggest ear plugs?

The Conservative Wahoo said...

Well said! I pretty much come down in harmony with the hunters on this one....and I look forward to taking up duck hunting this fall with old friends!

Dan said...

As an avid hunter from Wisconsin, who just moved away from the Franconia-Springfield area, I find any serious discussion about hunting in Fairfax County laughable. If I happen to find any of you in Northern Wisconsin during waterfowl or deer season, I will first give you a big noogie for language like "lobbying the Department of Fish and Game...." Then, we'll grab a cold beer (only one), find a real duck blind (one that's less apt to draw return fire from across the Potomac), and take it from there.

Anonymous said...

Dan - I don't disagree that my comment about lobbying for hunting in Fairfax may be laughable. I only offered it as the one legal vehicle to address the issue. We had an issue with urban transplants to our rural region who tried to restrict deer hunting and used that lobbying approach successfully to strengthen some of the hunting protections. I tried to acknowledge the relative futility of it in Fairfax but still feel that if hunters don't take (legal) stands to such abuse of the hunting regulations, then the practice will become even more widespread as anti-hunters recognize the success of such behaviors. Plus, I believe it helps influence the way future statewide regulations will be crafted even if unable to get it fixed in the specific county where it is being practiced so there may be some greater good in bringing to state officals' attention. All that said, having grown up in Northern VA when Franconia-Springfield was the outer-most fringe of development, even I can't imagine today trying to hunt inside the beltway (at least not for wild game). As for hunting in Wisconsin, I go through Wisconsin every Oct/Nov en route to 10 days of S. Dakota pheasant and duck hunting along the Missouri River. We lease a 10,000 acre cattle ranch along the river and it is surrounded by Sioux tribal land. Beautiful country, lots of pheasants and, if we get a freeze the week before in Canada, more ducks than I've seen except maybe in northern Mississippi and Arkansas. If gas prices continue to dip, I may try driving myself again this year. How far north are you? And is Wisconsin still dealing with chronic wasting disease in its deer herds? I seem to recall a pretty significant concern there some years ago. I'm going to try getting CW out for a hunt or two down here on VA's Eastern Shore this year. If you find yourself wandering around CW's vicinity, there's room in my blind although I doubt we'll have anywhere near the numbers of ducks you enjoy up there. Either way, happy hunting.

Anonymous said...

I will almost always come down on the side of hunters. The most imporant reason is that hunters pay for conservation. Legally taking a game animal preserves the herd/school/flock for the next generation. The tactic taken by some to buy up all the legal liscenses unbalances the equation. One of the saddest testaments to this occurred in Idaho where I saw hundreds of antelope starve to death after the number of tags were limited during the fall hunt. Game animals are a renewable resource and very resiliant and adaptable. Preventing their harvest only hurts the animals in the long run.

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