Editorial-Opinion November 2017

Steve Burch | November 1, 2017

There is no better month in the calendar than November for me. It is fitting that Thanksgiving is held in November. I love it. I particularly love it this year because I think a remarkable change is coming. It is not yet here, but like the cracking of a turkey egg, and the peeping and movement that comes with that struggle to move from the egg’s promise of bird to fact of bird, there is a similar cracking and peeping and struggle about that makes me happily watchful this month.

Of course, the centerpiece of November is the rut. I wish the full moon did not hit on Nov. 4 this year. I like it best when the peak of the rut hits on a new moon. All other things being equal, dark nights make better deer hunting during the day.

Still, it could be worse; a full moon on Nov. 10 would be worse for me. In the east piedmont where I hunt most of the time, it seems the peak of the rut is three or four days either side of Nov. 8, best I can tell anyway.

And I am not sure what the reason is, but I enjoy the show more these days than in my early days of deer hunting. I am not so much less intense, as I am simply less tense.

Watching young bucks learning how to become a buck can be very entertaining. I keep hunting when I see a deer and then determine that it is not a shooter. But it seems I used to take my eye and attention away from those deer and keep hunting behind them. I still do that of course, but about as often as not, the deer I can see will tell me about the deer that are coming, particularly during the rut.

This is also the transition month when every day brings a different landscape, and a different challenge and opportunity to sportsmen and wildlife. The leaves that were so thick and beautiful in the trees when this month began become a thick noisy carpet by the end of the month. All the acorns are down, and the bright red dogwood fruit that littered the woods early in the month are gone. Migrating sandhill cranes glide raucously south through some of the bluest skies of the year, while ducks begin to filter in to the ponds and sloughs that are well-watered this year compared to the dry year last year.

And fishing is going to be great for the next two months, but November is my favorite. The lakes have stabilized from the turn-over, and bass, crappie and linesides are feeding up for the coming winter. All things consider, November fishing for me is more predictable and more successful than almost any other month. I love it.

I could say all of this about any November, but this November is different. This November is seeing the breaking of the heavy hand of federal regulation and mismanagement that, for the past decade, has ruled and in many cases ruined saltwater fishing in this country. Lives and livelihoods of any number of charter boat captains along our coast have simply been regulated out of business.

Sportsmen are, by both history and definition, good stewards of wildlife. Historically, we have both demanded science-based management and funded it ourselves through our taxes and fees. The Commerce Department of the federal government has a branch called NOAA, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and a division under NOAA called the National Marine Fisheries Service. They regulate saltwater fisheries. They interpreted the Magnuson-Stevens Act in ways that have unduly harmed fishermen, while claiming the need to protect fisheries already so abundant as to make it difficult to hook anything other then the protected species.

Today, a combination of legislative progress and shift in executive branch attitude are combining to bring back common sense to an area that has sorely needed such an infusion.

The legislative improvement is coming from a Congress that is being sharply criticized in many areas for doing nothing. Yet, both by the passage of specific bills and the funding of programs within the new pre-release of the budget, the progress toward an effective program that is also helpful to both the resources and the public is gaining momentum.

On Oct. 3, the Senate improved a law dealing with billfish conservation, and now the misused Magnuson-Stevens Act regulations are being reviewed under the leadership of the new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. This November, there is traction, and I am very hopeful, and thankful, for things to come.

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