Sportsmen Must Fight To Pass Right To Hunt And Fish Amendment

Support of hunting and fishing will be on the November 7 ballot when Georgia voters head to the polls.

James Lakeman | October 1, 2006

This November 7, sportsmen and women of the state of Georgia have the opportunity to elevate hunting and fishing from the privilege that is now to a right through the passage of the state constitutional amendment for fishing and hunting. This will be the most important initiative to face fishermen and hunters in this state in generations. Passage of this amendment will not impact us as outdoorsmen and women in the immediate future; however, failure will lead to a slow erosion of our traditions as anti-fishing and anti-hunting groups will have found a new home from which they can claim a victory. Fishing and hunting have been considered a privilege, but as the demographics of the state have changed so to has the need to consider protection of our outdoor heritage.

The exact wording of the amendment is:
“Shall the Constitution be amended so as to provide that the tradition of fishing and hunting and the taking of fish and wildlife shall be preserved for the people and shall be managed by law and regulation for the public good?”

This amendment ensures that future generations may equally participate in the great outdoors just as we and our predecessors have. Fishermen and hunters of this state have been stewards of game and nongame species for generations. It has been the efforts of fishermen and hunters who cleaned lakes, stocked ponds, built food plots and reintroduced deer and turkey to this state and have contributed so much to the abundant populations of fish and wildlife we enjoy today. In the future it will be fishermen, hunters, and trappers who through their love of the outdoors continue nurturing wildlife.

On several occasions the question has been asked: Why pass this constitutional amendment now?

The demographics of our great state are changing considerably. As cities and counties around the state become more urbanized, fewer people are connected with the reality of food production and its relationship to the land and wildlife. This in turn translates to a much larger percentage of the population not familiar with conservation and the significant roles fishing and hunting play in the management of wildlife. This can create an environment where increasing numbers of Georgia citizens are less knowledgeable of the relationship between conservation and fishing and hunting. When the majority of Georgia residents lacking knowledge of the role outdoor sportsmen play in conservation, we can expect increased support of efforts to prohibit hunting, fishing, and trapping activities that are practiced by a diminishing proportion of citizens.

At least nine other states have a provision in their constitutions similar to what Georgia will be considering this November 7. Wisconsin, Montana, Louisiana, Alabama, and Virginia are among states that have most recently added this right to their constitutions. California, Texas, South Carolina, and Tennessee are among at least 21 states that have or are considering some legislative action protecting fishing and hunting through constitutional amendments or legislative action.

Consider Michigan, where conservation organizations have struggled for two years to institute a dove season. Large sums of money and legal wrangling take place each year with the hopes of opening a dove season — to no avail. This November the voters of Michigan will choose to uphold the ban on dove hunting within the state. Polls show a majority of citizens within the state oppose dove hunting. Anti-hunting organizations such the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have chosen Michigan as a battleground that has become very expensive for wingshooters in that state.

New Jersey has been a battleground for several years as conservation organizations fought to open a bear season in a state where residents live with bears rummaging through neighborhoods and generally consider the animals potentially dangerous pests because the population has exceeded the carrying capacity of rural areas. Conservation groups fought repeated court contests for several years to finally open the season in fall of 2005. The anti-groups recruited protesters that resulted in arrests for hunter harassment. Three anti-hunters were convicted of hunter harassment and sentenced on August 31, 2006.
The outdoorsmen and women of Georgia contribute significantly to the economy each year. The economic impact of dollars spent by fishermen and hunters exceeds $2 billion each year and support more than 21,000 jobs. That is as many Georgia jobs as the United States Postal Service, the third largest employer in the state. Each year these sportsmen and women contribute more than $61 million in state-tax revenue to the Georgia state treasury.

Each year Georgia’s 400,000 hunters and 1.1 million anglers generate $18 million in license fees and $8.5 million in federal-excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. That is $26.5 million that directly supports the state’s wildlife conservation efforts.

From the period 1990 to 2000, the population of Georgia swelled 26.4 percent from 6.4 million residents to 8.2 million, making us the third-largest state east of the Mississippi River, and the fourth-fastest-growing state in the country. As of 2005 the Georgia population was estimated at 9.1 million residents, and based on current trends in the year 2030 Georgia will be home to 12 million people. Hunters and fishermen are clearly in the minority. Without this constitutional amendment, the minority will be forced to deal with the tyranny of the unknowledgeable majority in reference to hunting and fishing related activities.

To further breakdown the population numbers in the state as of 2000; 5.4 million lived in suburban metropolitan areas, 1 million lived in an urban environment, which leaves 2.3 million living in rural Georgia. Suburban and urban areas of the state are projected to continue growth patterns as the rural areas of the state decline. A prime example is Forsyth County which experienced 123 percent population explosion from 1990 to 2000. In little over a decade this county went from rural status to a suburban Atlanta community. I dare not ask an old fisherman in the area if this will have an impact on Lake Lanier.
This increased human population will place an ever-increasing burden on resources that currently support game and nongame aquatic species. Fishermen will have a much smaller voice in matters related to angling.

To the non-hunting or non-fishing public, when they hear the words fishing or hunting, their mind sees a bass or a deer. They do not envision the efforts sportsmen in this state have made building the deer herd from 198,000 deer in 1970 to more than 1 million today with an annual harvest of 300,000-plus deer per year. They do not envision all the planning, funding, coordination and construction of habitat by fishing groups as they work with DNR biologists side-by-side in waters throughout the state. They do not see hunting groups planting food plots in the fall and spring that benefit many, many species of animals including many nongame species.

Many residents of this state do not realize more than 200,000 alligators live below the fall line, enough to require an annual lottery hunt; that black bears have increased numbers to 2,200; that turkeys have increased from 17,000 in 1973 to more than 300,000 in 2004.

The conservation model of this country that is so successful is based on hunters and fishermen, both financially and for hands-on, dirt-under-the-fingernails hard work.

This amendment will ensure future generations are able to enjoy the great outdoors as sportsmen just as we did as children and as adults. With our ability to fish and hunt elevated from a privilege to a right, conservation groups can continue to spend donated dollars on conservation and education programs throughout the state rather than court battles against HSUS or PETA over where, when and how we can fish or hunt.

Conversely, this amendment will not change the requirement for a fisherman or hunter to have permission to fish or hunt private property. Georgia will continue to have one of the most highly respected DNR’s in the country. Georgia DNR will continue to have the ability to regulate fishing and hunting. Local governments will retain the right to regulate the discharge of firearms as the General Assembly provided in the criminal code of 1995.

Conservation organizations throughout the state have signed on as board members of Georgian for Outdoor Traditions (GOT) in support of this amendment. Many of these groups have included financial contributions or volunteer support. These groups include GON, GONetwork, National Wild Turkey Federation, Quality Deer Management Association, Georgia Outdoor Writers Association, Georgia Chapter of Safari Club International, and Heritage Wildlife Conservation Council. For more information, or to find out how you can help or get involved, go to <>.

Passage of this amendment rests on the voters of Georgia. If it fails to pass, we will not see an immediate impact, but it will send a loud message. Your state legislators will realize the sportsmen of this state have much less stature than previously thought. Your voice as a sportsman will be squelched. Anti-hunting and anti-fishing groups will have a new home in a region of the country steeped in outdoor traditions. They will slowly erode our ability to enjoy those traditions, neither in your county nor city, but under the gold dome in Atlanta. As the population of this state increases our chances of recovery will fade. In time the cost to enjoy the outdoors will increase significantly as we spend precious time and money lobbying, and fighting court battles.

The easiest way to ensure our outdoor traditions for future generations is to pass this amendment. Encourage friends, neighbors, and coworkers to vote yes.

This November 7, vote yes for the Georgia State Constitutional Amendment for the “right to fish and hunt.” Please talk to your non-hunting friends about the importance of this measure. The deadline to register to vote is October 10. If you are not registered, please do so, and help ensure passage of this crucial legislation.

Editor’s Note: James Lakeman is the Chairman of the Board, Georgians for Outdoor Traditions (GOT).

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.