Editorial-Opinion October 2005

Steve Burch | October 4, 2005

There are special times when everything fits exactly right for things to work out, and I seem to have once again been extremely lucky. Now there is real hope for sportsmen.

Two issues have brought this hope into focus. The first is the action of the Georgia House of Representatives Special Committee on supplemental feeding, as they like to call it. The second issue is the DNR decision to spend sportsman’s dollars on cooks while cutting conservation rangers and closing 12 WMAs (see page 44).

On first blush, these issues may not appear to be signs of hope. But I believe they will serve as the catalyst to make us sportsmen move. These issues will be our wake-up call to bring us together and make us be the effective group our fathers built.

About 20 months ago, we launched a new non-profit organization called GONetwork, and many of you are now becoming familiar with it. Some of you, about 4,000 of you, have joined it. We could not have known 20 months ago what was about to happen. But everything that has happened demonstrates why sportsmen need to create just such an organization.

Do you want me or anyone else dictating your hunting future without consulting you first? Do you want DNR spending your money on projects that erode hunting and fishing in Georgia? I don’t think you want either of those things. But that is exactly what has been happening for years.

It changed on September 14. That is why I am hopeful.

On page 54 you will find the results of a vote regarding the question of hunting in proximity to feed, aka baiting. The questions were created by sportsmen opposed to hunting over bait, and the votes were from sportsmen who voted online at the GONetwork website.

The important part of the vote is not the results, but rather the vote itself. For the first time in my lifetime and yours, sportsmen have an open forum where everyone of us can express our opinion and then fairly compare our notion against our fellow sportsmen. This is done without influence or control from other parties.

Until now, conservation groups, the state WRD and DNR, and politicians were the only ones participating in any organized way in the process. Rank and file sportsmen didn’t have a way to come together and determine what sportsmen thought. We were being told what sportsmen thought or what we ought to think.

GON was a large part of that process and most of the time, sportsmen have agreed with our position. But when sportsmen disagreed with us, they felt disenfranchised, and they did not have a way to make their feelings known on anything like a level playing field. I didn’t like that. Even if sportsmen disagreed with GON, they ought to have a place where they can be heard.

GONetwork is that place, and on September 14, our first vote was held.

This first vote was not very impressive when taken by itself. Fewer than 200 sportsmen voted. It reminds me of the first airplane flight by Orville and Wilbur Wright at Kittyhawk, North Carolina. That flight was pretty underwhelming by today’s standards. But it showed the rest of us the way. It broke the ice. Today, anyone can become a pilot and fly.

Other votes are coming, other beginning flights. Next, on October 14, a vote will be held on questions developed by those who favor legalizing hunting in close proximity to placed feed. These questions will be developed by them, not GON.

We repeat the process again in November and December, and then the January issue of GON will have a poll on its cover for everyone to participate in one unified vote. Those unified questions will be developed by the Sportsman Senators of the GONetwork, again, not by GON.

While we are learning how to talk to one another via these votes, we are also going to be learning how to talk to our representatives to see what can be done about spending sportsman’s dollars on sportsman’s programs. You will get a chance to vote on whether you think the state’s plan to fire three game wardens and hire three cooks is a good one. Then your Sportsman Senator will take those results to your state senator and state representative, and then let you know what they said about our sportsman position.

Isn’t that a hopeful sign?

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