Woody: Right to hunt

Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 10:45pm

Critics of the proposed Right to Hunt and Fish amendment to the state constitution contend that it is unnecessary because that right is not threatened. One recent anti-amendment editorial claimed that Tennessee has never banned any type of wild-game hunting, and that there are no organized anti-hunting and anti-fishing movements in Tennessee.

Wrong and wrong.

Years ago, the state legislature banned the hunting of albino whitetail deer. Wildlife biologists said there was no game-management reason for the ban; it was based purely on a Disney-esque sentiment. While most hunters would never shoot an albino deer anyway, the fact is there is a precedent for banning the hunting of a certain wild game based purely on emotion and legislative whim.

And though the radical anti-hunting and anti-fishing organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has no state chapter, it aggressively pursues its agendas in Tennessee. For example, PETA is currently pressuring the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga to disband its collegiate fishing team.

PETA describes Tennessee’s Right to Hunt and Fish amendment as “a desperate effort to prop up a dying pastime.”

The Tennessee Wildlife Federation, which drafted the amendment, notes that hunting and fishing are a state-granted “privilege,” not a right as generally assumed.

The amendment would provide a safeguard by allowing hunters and fishermen the means to appeal any challenge to the right to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Without constitutional protection, a ban could be passed by legislators motivated by personal anti-hunting sentiment or pressured by
anti-hunting constituents.

One red herring that anti-amendment forces float is that granting constitutional protection would take away the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s ability to enforce game and fish laws. They suggest that under the amendment hunters could exercise their “constitutional right” to take deer or ducks, bass or bluegill at any time, by any method and in any number. That is, of course, preposterous; hunting and fishing would continue to be regulated by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission and the TWRA, with oversight from the state legislature.

Just as the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not impede government authority to regulate ownership and use of firearms, the right to hunt and fish would have common-sense restrictions.

Alarmed by various hunting bans in Europe and Great Britain and by growing threats in the U.S., 12 states have added a right-to-hunt amendment to their constitutions. Four more, including Tennessee, have it on this fall’s ballot.

Since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, hunters and fishermen have been in the vanguard of the conservation movement. In Tennessee, proceeds from license sales and related revenues support the TWRA, provide habitat preservation and acquisition, and fund such nationally renowned programs as the restoration of whitetail deer, wild turkeys and — most recently — East Tennessee elk.

An estimated 750,000 Tennesseans hunt and fish, supporting a billion-dollar industry.

Unlike our pioneer ancestors, few Tennesseans today hunt and fish for subsistence. Instead it is affirmation of an outdoors heritage and a connection to a nostalgic past, following bird dogs through frost-sparkling fields and wading gurgling trout streams; a time when youngsters shivered with excitement beside their dads in duck blinds instead of being mentally and physically desiccated by video games and television.

There is no question that hunting and, to a lesser extent fishing, are under siege in an increasingly urbanized society. Anyone who argues otherwise is either abjectly misinformed or deliberately deceptive. The right to hunt and fish has become like everything else in modern society: If we want it protected, we’d better get it in writing.


Larry Woody is a Nashville sports writer who has covered racing since the early 1970s.

11 Comments on this post:

By: AmyLiorate on 10/25/10 at 8:08

Maybe it would be a good thing to have this right spelled out in black and white.

But I think this statement is wrong:
"The Tennessee Wildlife Federation, which drafted the amendment, notes that hunting and fishing are a state-granted “privilege,” not a right as generally assumed."

The TWF doesn't determine what is a right and what is a privilege.

Hunting on State of TN property, such as a Wildlife Management Area is a privilege.

Hunting on my own land is a right. Fishing in my own pond, private lake, etc. is not controlled by the state.

I support all of our rights, but we can't put them all on paper. If we're going to make the effort to put another right down on paper then we should at least be educated enough to understand Rights versus Privileges.

By: bfra on 10/25/10 at 8:47

Very astute comment Amy! I agree 100%

By: Bubba Littledick on 10/25/10 at 9:02

Son, put down that dang video game and let's go out in the woods and shoot us somethin'! Hell naw, we don't need it for food or nothin', it's just fun to kill something! You see some real perty deer just standin' there and you take aim, pull the trigger and BLAMMO! Next thing you know it's dead as can be and damn, that's fun! You drag it home and take pictures of you and the carcass and show it off to people to show 'em what a big man you are. Hell, in them video games you play it's only fake killing. Let's go out and kill somethin' for real! Just for sport!

By: bfra on 10/25/10 at 9:19

Bubba - If you had used your brain, maybe you could have come up with something more stupid to post!

By: localboy on 10/25/10 at 11:27

Excellent letter, Mr. Woody.

By: localboy on 10/25/10 at 11:28

...I meant article, sorry.

By: judyboodo@yahoo.com on 10/25/10 at 2:09

I don't know Larry, guns in bars --- guess I'm missing the common sense part!

By: EddieA on 10/25/10 at 4:30

First of all, the wording is incorrect. The word hunting is no longer being used in the Tennessee Wildlife publication. The word hunting is being replaced by the word "harvesting". People no longer hunt deer, they harvest them for population control. The fall 2009 issue has a great story on the fall harvest of wild turkey and deer.

This issue was the inspiration for the 2010 novel, 'The Harvesting of Joseph Victorio'. In this novel, the U.S. government creates the Department of Harvesting. Its purpose is to control the excess population by harvesting American citizens who attain the legal age of sixty-five years. Teams of six were sent to harvest usable body parts and destroy what is left.

The elderly fight back. The discovery of guns, hidden in the years 1814 and 1986, escaletes their struggle for survival into a full-scale war. Armed with flintlock rifles, flintlock pistols and modern day guns: pistols, rifles, shotguns and Thompson submachine guns, Joseph Victorio leads an army of elderly men and elderly women to battle the harvesters.

The defenseless are no longer defenseless and the harvesters become the harvested.

There are two copies available for checkout at the Nashville Public Library,

By: WickedTribe on 10/27/10 at 12:56

I think drinking alcohol, playing video games, having homosexual sex, going to college, talking to friends, surfing the internet, reading, and knitting should all be protected by constitutional amendments.

That and any other idiotic trivialities I can think of later.

By: HokeyPokey on 10/28/10 at 6:36

And here are a few of mah rats I'd like protected also:

The rat to watch Fox News and get all worried and stuff;
The rat to be pertected against the New Black Panther Party and stuff;
The rat to be a paranoid schizophrenic if I so desire, and stuff.
An any other rats I wake up in the middle of the night and get all upset about Obama taking away from me and stuff.

And there may be many others but they haven't been discovered.

By: RamonaBrown28 on 3/12/12 at 8:10

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