ESCANABA - One of the goals of the revitalized Upper Peninsula Sportmen's Alliance is the involvement of the general public.
There are approximately 60 conservation organizations and businesses that have joined membership with the UPSA. These same organizations represent over 30,000 members at large and contribute their respective expertise in dealing with issues that face today's natural resources management.
It is done, again, in the interest of good conservation.
The leadership of UPSA wants to assure everyone, whether club affiliate member or not, that they have an opportunity to participate.
Topics and resolutions presented before the body of UPSA during their regular quarterly sessions do not allow non-member voting. This has left some disgruntled and as a result, five regional public forums will be conducted throughout the UP.
These are no preconceived outcomes planned for these meetings.
Participants will be asked to provide topics of discussion, most of which are expected to be hunting related. Information collected will be compiled and presented to MDNRE regional resources managers for the development of a long term comprehensive plan with prioritization of goals.
This is not a criticism of the current structure. It is what many are considering a coordinated effort to seek resolve to a myriad of problems we now experience.
As an example, one of the resolutions sponsored at the January UPSA meeting dealt with whether or not the annual two day Youth Deer Hunt should continue.
This was the only contested and debated topic of the entire meeting. It seemed those speaking were either adamantly for or against it, and all perspectives had merit.
The special fall youth hunt started some years ago when there was increased concern about hunter recruitment and retention. It was a time when deer were plentiful and the opportunity for antlerless deer hunting was broad across the Upper Peninsula.
By 2009, the September youth hunt had been combined with an opportunity to participate for 100 percent disabled veterans statewide, a Special Disabled Firearm Hunt in October and Early Firearm Hunt in select Deer Management Units (primarily in the Lower Peninsula).
Today UP deer populations have plummeted and with the exception of a few management units, antlerless deer hunting has been shut down over most of the region.
While area biologists project that in all probability those participating in the hunt are shooting only approximately one percent of the total annual UP buck harvest, there is some question raised as to whether or not this should be considered fair chase hunting?
Comments from the floor of the UPSA meeting alleged a portion of the bucks taken during the youth hunt were actually shot by the parent, more for their own bragging rights than the interest of the youngster alone.
However I would say most of the current concern was over the potential over harvest of deer, given the current population levels.
On the other side, those adults using the opportunity to mentor youngsters on the ethics and traditions of hunting hold the season in high regard and is a very important part of their lives.
Another perspective raised is if this type of mentoring provides the proper level of educating youth about conservation and choice.
Does it hold the premise of sound game management by starting off with a trophy and instant gratification versus gaining knowledge and working towards long term goals?
I contend the youth hunt was developed more as a marketing tool than a fiscal deer management tool. Moreover, facts regarding hunter recruitment and retention found that age played a bigger role than did the opportunity and since then, the age for hunters to begin has been amended down through the legislature.
Given the current conditions, it may be time for an adjustment.
That suggestion was cause for some who are passionate about keeping the season open to throw their arms up.
The decision of harvest seasons and quotas are bound by law to be done by sound science, period. The priority has to center on what is in the best interest of the game species and natural sustainability.
Unfortunately, we seem to have forgotten the other opportunities available for those who wish to mentor young hunters.
Small game season opens statewide in mid-September and includes ruffed grouse, cotton tail rabbit and varying hare. Other game species such as pheasant, woodcock, turkey waterfowl, etc., are also open during specific time periods in the UP.
All provide ample time to gain the outdoors experience; to share your wisdom and lure and thus have a great time.
Those who want to add their perspective to this and other issues will now have a venue to do so at one of the upcoming meetings. The first UPSA public feedback meeting is Feb. 16 at Bay de Noc Community College Heirman Center room 952 at 7 p.m.
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.