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Tuesday, October 8, 2013
This is the time of year hunters sight-in their guns for the deer season and anglers head for places like the Outer Banks of North Carolina to battle big, copper-hued red drum in the foaming surf.
But those plans have been challenged, in some cases sabotaged, this time, thanks to the federal government shutdown.
The popular national forest shooting ranges in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, including those in the Blacksburg area and on Potts Mountain in Craig County, have been placed off limits. Never mind they are located in the boonies and require little supervision.
Also closed are several hundred federal campgrounds, recreation areas and wildlife refuges valued by outdoorsmen and worth billions of dollars to the economy. Even access to the Appalachian Trail has been impacted in some areas during the busy fall color season. Members of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, who maintain more than 100 miles of the famous footpath, have been directed to cease their work.
Across the country, "the gates leading to some of the world's best fisheries are locked," Trout Unlimited said in a release that expressed disappointment in the shutdown.
TU's plans to hold a major Wild Trout Symposium in Yellowstone National Park have been up in the air. The event has been held every three years for the past 40 and involves thousands of dollars and opportunities to improve trout conservation and fishing.
The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance called the shutdown "unnecessary," and "political theatre at its very worst." It sent a letter to President Obama on Tuesday demanding that the closures impacting anglers and hunters be lifted. "These lands are our lands," the president was told.
Few places has the shutdown caused more heat than at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, that slim finger of land that pokes into the belly of the Atlantic along the North Carolina coast.
David Joyner president and tournament director of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, described the national seashore as being "completely closed." That includes ORV ramps, visitor centers, access roads, parking areas, campgrounds, Avon Pier and even Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, which has been enjoying one of the best marlin seasons in memory.
If you would like more information on what is happening, don't bother to check the National Park Service Website. It also is closed.
The beach buggy association continues to make plans for a major drum tournament scheduled Oct 23-26.
Back to shooting ranges, the Roanoke Rifle and Revolver Club www.roanokerifle.com is taking up some of the slack by offering an Oct. 13 sighting-in day at its range on the Franklin County side of Windy Gap Mountain. The event is from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the charge is $2 per firearm and the contact is Harvey Bulaski at 540-343-9040.
Western counties dominate youth day
While studying the results of the Sept. 28 youth/apprentice deer hunting day (reported in this space last week) something jumped up at me. All the top-kill counties, those electronically reporting 30 or more kills, were from West of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with the exception of Loudon County.
Loudon really didn't count, because it had an antlerless-only firearm season open in addition to youth/apprentice day.
"Are there reasons that people in the east don't take their kids hunting?"
That was the question I put to Matt Knox, deer project leader for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. He told me there is more of a "hunting culture" in the West, meaning that a greater percentage of the population purchases a hunting license.
Knox sent a map that showed the hunting culture is particularly strong in the mountain counties that border West Virginia.
Another factor that could have made a difference is that using hounds is a traditional method of deer hunting in the east, and that practice was not legal during youth/apprentice day.
NRA endorses Republicans in Virginia
Vote Republican. That's what the NRA is telling its members and anyone else who will listen, when it comes to Virginia's race for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
The NRA gives Republican Kenneth Cuccinelli its endorsement for governor and an "A" grade, while his Democrat rival, Terry McAuliffe, gets an "F."
In the race for lieutenant governor, Republican Earl Jackson gets the endorsement and an "A" grade while Democrat Ralph Northam gets a "D." Republican Mark Obenshain gets the endorsement for attorney general and an "A," while Democrat Mark Herring gets a "D."
More information from http://www.nrapvf.org/grades-endorsements/2013/virginia.aspx
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