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WARNING: Gasaway ‘talkin’ stuff’ again:

Taking on smokers, horse riders and the FWC

by Kenny Gasaway

Hunting season will end for much of Florida by the end of January. I hope the season has been a safe and successful one for all of you. The holidays are over, and I am sure many of you received some interesting gifts for Christmas. I urge you to be careful with your new “toys.” If you gave a gun, bow, knife or a four-wheeler to a youth, please take the time and effort to ensure they use them only with your supervision.

My youngest daughter’s boyfriend has asked me to teach him to hunt. I am flattered and look forward to taking him hog hunting this month in Lake Panasoffkee. While teaching him to shoot a rifle the other day, I didn’t think to warn him about the result of holding his eye too close to the scope.

At the gun’s report he found himself bleeding across the nose and forehead. We have all done this at least once, but it was my responsibility to think of it prior to allowing him to shoot. I had drilled him on every safety rule I could think of, but forgot that one. If we are to mentor anyone in hunting and shooting, no matter what age, we should try to remember everything.

The next subject I want to wade into is smoking in the outdoors. Due to the difference in hunting styles, it may not make much of a difference to dog hunters, but for still hunters it is something most do not care to be around. Personally, after working in an office all week, then smelling the carbon monoxide on the highway all the way home, the smell of the fresh outdoors is refreshing, if not intoxicating, to me.

Nothing rubs me the wrong way more than having someone in the group circling around me like a darn buzzard blowing his smoky breath all over me. One arises at 4 a.m., takes a bath in detergent-free soap and dons his hunting clothes that have been inside a plastic bag with pine scent all night and puts on rubber boots partially filled with baking soda – only to have a smoker blow smoke all over him at the check station while signing in to hunt. I know, you “have the right to smoke.” I hear that all of the time.

Guess what? I have the right to break wind . . . and I get pleasure out of that also, but I don’t bestow that odor upon you, do I? If I could store my gas in a can, I would, and then I would spray it on you every time you blew smoke on me! Think about it. Speaking of check stations, those social gatherings are becoming an endangered species in many areas. The FWC doesn’t find them important anymore, particularly after the first nine days of gun season.

How can any judgement on deer harvest and/or deer density be made using “science” if no data is being taken? How can you manage game on a computer? Even if check stations were useless as a biological tool – which I don’t think is the case – they are still part of hunting heritage that I hate to see lost.

Primitive man drew his hunting stories on the walls of caves. Most of the paintings were exaggerated, as are the photos today (y’all know what I’m talking about...sitting five feet behind the kill for a pose), but the fact IS – as it was then – hunters like to communicate and swap stories. They like to see dead game. They like to socialize, and the best place to do that is at the check stations.

The decision to close check stations was one made by the commissioners of the FWC. I wish I could have confidence in the FWC, but I do not. I have a lot of friends who work for the FWC, and I know they have their hearts in the right place, but I will give you one guess where I think the commissioners have their heads – and it ain’t on their necks!

The Florida Quota Hunt Permit System change is one example. As you all know by now, it is a done deal that the whole system will change for the 2009-2010 season. It was a done deal when they chose the “working group” to consider all the options and make proposals, and it was a done deal while we were all fighting it. It was a waste of our time. Tons of money was spent for nothing (holding meetings, hiring the Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium to run all the meetings, etc.). The FWC should have simply changed the law to make the permits non-transferable as they and their staff wanted to do all along.

I cannot see how the FWC could possibly believe they can achieve their goal of creating more hunting participation and interest if a person gets to hunt a prime hunting area just one weekend every two or three years.

How do I explain this to my future son-in law? Do I say, “David, spend $1,000 on guns, clothes and equipment and you may get to hunt a prime area for three days every three or four years!

I cannot imagine that they do not know human (hunter) behavior any better than to believe that a hunter would take a buddy and allow him to share his bag limit, when in most cases the bag limit is one deer or one turkey per hunt!

I cannot believe that they don’t realize that, with a two-turkey-a-year bag limit, hardly anyone will want to waste a preference choice on a later (second or third phase) hunt in a particular area when the chance of getting a first phase hunt will take years in the preference system. Anyone who believes this new system will be fair and make everyone happy has an Obama mentality.

They call the hunters (me included) unfair and unethical for gaming the system, and most of the FWC commissioners are real estate investors, developers, construction company owners and lawyers for goodness sake!

While I am on a roll here, I must address “horse riders.” I will not refer to them as equestrians, because that sounds too fancy. They ride horses, thus I use the term “horse riders.”

We seem to be losing ground every day to these folks who ride these stinky beasts that bite and kick. More time and opportunity is given to horse riders on wildlife management areas than is awarded to hunters. They are allowed in many areas during hunts when we are required to draw a quota permit. These tight-britches-wearing sissies do not have to purchase a management area permit, yet can ride all over the areas we cannot drive a vehicle.

If we tore up the roads with 4X4s the way these horses turn them into powder they would close the roads on us. The FFWCC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) should be re-named the FFHBWC (Florida Fish, Horse and Bird Watchers Commission). The only reason I even mention fish is because of the revenue it brings into the state.

They really don’t care about hunters. It’s all about money, and we don’t generate that much (so they think).

Finally, while we are talking about fair, we need to address Florida’s out-of-state licenses. Since the FWC has apparently decided to run Florida’s established hunters to other states in exchange for the newer ones, we should demand that our non-resident licenses match that of other states.

The NWTF ruined turkey hunting in central and south Florida by “advertising” the Osceola turkey to the point that we no longer have a place to hunt, due to hunters from other states pursuing their “Grand Slam.”

In my opinion, if Wyoming (for instance), charges $1,000 for an elk permit, we should charge the same for a turkey permit. If a person must pay $800 for a whitetail tag in Iowa, then those hunters from Iowa should pay the same to hunt our turkey. If they want it so blooming bad, they should pay for it just like we have to when we go to their state. Yankees want to take “the wild boar” (that always did sound stupid to me, as if there was only one hog to hunt and it happened to be a male) and our big bass. They should pay what we pay to get an animal or fish from their state. In other words, I believe in “tit for tat.”

I wish I weren’t so cynical, but sometimes I simply get worn out with the whole mess! I do wish each of you all the best during what is left of your hunting season, and, most importantly, I pray that you will be safe. God bless you all.

Kenny Gasaway is a member of the Florida Outdoor Writer’s Association (F.O.W.A.) who has hunted turkeys since 1965 and exclusively hunted Florida public lands (wildlife management areas) since 1973. He can be reached at [email protected]