Editorial-Opinion June 2005

Steve Burch | June 1, 2005

Conventional wisdom suggests that if you do anything positive to promote hunting in an urban setting, you are bound to fail. The antis will come out and shout you down.

Conventional wisdom has some holes in it.

If you are a sportsman in Georgia, you just had a positive month. May was good. I think your kids and their kids just had a positive month also. In little ways, good things are happening that can improve our future.

Roswell is a city of more than 80,000 people in less than 40 square miles. That is about 26,000 acres, making the city smaller than Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, for instance.

While there are very few tracts large enough to hunt in Roswell, and firearms hunting is not permitted in Fulton County north of Highway 92, clearly there are deer there. Last year, bowhunters took Pope & Young bucks in Roswell. Also last year, unfortunately, an arrowed doe ran from property being hunted to a residential yard before dying. Not surprisingly, this was upsetting to the owner of the yard.

To make a long story short, the result of this incident was a proposed ordinance that would have ended all bowhunting and almost all archery practice in Roswell. Roswell is the eighth largest city in Georgia. When first proposed, this ordinance seemed destined for easy passage. It may still pass.

But right now, sportsmen and women who stood up and spoke against the ordinance outnumbered proponents by more than three-to-one, and have fought the plan to a stalemate. The Kentucky Derby was won by a 50-to-one longshot and sportsmen stopped an ordinance against bowhunting, while laboring under similarly long odds.

For there record, the city council voted to not consider the ordinance, effectively killing this version. The ordinance is expected to be reintroduced. It’s not over yet. Sportsmen did halt progress on the proposal, and that keeps hunting legal.

Sportsmen were there. Sportsmen made it happen. We sportsmen are once again finding our public voice. It has been a marvelous thing to see.

But progress didn’t peak with the vote that night. The next morning a number of sportsmen who wanted to be there at he meeting, but could not, contacted me to say that they were pleased with the outcome and wanted to become a part of the process.

One of those people is a good friend, a dyed-in-the wool sportsman who lives in the area.  A couple of weeks earlier, he had called me to say “Let’s go turkey hunting.” I had to decline because I was working on this Roswell hunting issue.

He didn’t want to hear about it.

“What they need to do,” he said, “is use common sense. There is no public safety issue here, I’ve been shooting my bow in my backyard for years. That ordinance is just bull.”

I told my friend that it doesn’t work that way. To succeed, sportsmen have to show up. He shook his head, pitying me because, “Steve likes that political stuff,” and went on with his turkey hunt.

As luck would have it, the day of the vote on the ordinance, another friend of his who had just learned of the proposal called him in a panic, telling my turkey-hunting buddy how bad this ordinance was.

My buddy steered him to me for information and advice which I happily shared. This guy attended the meeting with friends in tow and spoke in opposition to the ordinance.

The vote went our way.

Next morning, this new guy calls my buddy and fills him in on the events of the previous evening. Now, my turkey-hunting buddy calls me to say that he understands that he needs to be involved. He gets it.

I received four similar calls that day after the vote in Roswell. Sportsmen are finding themselves. We aren’t used to gathering to defend hunting. But when we do, we are remarkably effective. Roswell proved that. But there is still work to do in Roswell and across Georgia. We are going to get together for a burger and further organization in Roswell in the next two weeks. There are other groups like this getting together all across Georgia. I am inviting you to join us. If you want to be a part of this, email me at [email protected]. I will keep you posted and look forward to meeting you sometime very soon.

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