COMMENTARY by Kendal Hemphill

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What Would Wiggie Think?

H e was a small, dried-up, looking old man with steel gray hair and black-framed glasses thicker than Coke bottle bottoms. I doubt he was over five and a half feet tall, or weighed more than 130 pounds.

He handed me something wrapped in foil that he had just taken out of a small ice chest he was carrying around at the Outdoor Writers of America annual conference in Columbia, Missouri. He said, “Heah!” as he gave me the leaking mess, and when I asked him what it was, he barked at me over his shoulder as he was walking away, “Lobstah wrap!”

Wiggie Robinson was one of the most unforgettable characters I’ve had the pleasure to meet in my lifetime. His Maine accent was so thick I often had trouble understanding him, but he almost always spoke with exclamation points at the ends of his sentences. He was a beloved member of OWAA, back when OWAA still enthusiastically embraced consumptive outdoor sports such as hunting and fishing.

Wiggie was a licensed hunting guide in Maine. He was such a popular figure that the Maine Professional Guide Association and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife chooses an outstanding Maine guide each year, and bestows upon them the Wiggie Robinson Legendary Maine Guide Award. Gone, as they say, but hardly forgotten—and not likely to be anytime soon.

My friend, and occasional TF&G contributor, Herman Brune, once visited Wiggie in Maine, and Wiggie took him on a ‘short’ hike of several miles to his favorite fishing spot. Herman, who is as fit a man as I’ve ever known, and was about 40 years younger than the octogenarian Wiggie, could hardly keep up. Wiggie walked the same way he talked.

Becoming a Master hunting and fishing guide in Maine is no easy task. Applicants have to pass all kinds of tests, and be trained in first aid, map and compass navigation, game laws, wilderness survival, and tidewater rules and safety. Guides are held to strict standards of ethics and competence, and they take their jobs seriously. A Maine guide can be the difference between life and death in the outdoors.

I wish Wiggie was still around, so I could ask him what he thinks about the bill currently being considered by the Maine state legislature. This bill proposes to establish the “Right to Hunt and Fish.”

Actually, I think I know what Wiggie would say about the bill. What I’d like to ask him is what he thinks of some of the statements made by those who oppose it. Wiggie’s nor’-western accent may have made him difficult for a Texas boy to understand, but he always had something to say, and it was almost always worth listening to.

John Glowa, a Maine state rep, called the bill “barbaric.” He said it was “The worst piece of legislation I have seen in more than twenty years,” and “the poison fruit of the paranoia seed planted by the out-of-state gun lobby and by radical extremist consumptive users.” I think we can put Mr. Glowa down as opposed.

The anti-hunting crowd, to which Mr. Glowa probably belongs, is obviously going to be against such legislation, but the reasons they give for their opposition vary, depending on how they wish to be perceived. Karen Coker, of WildWatch Maine, an anti-hunting group, claimed that the bill’s intent “is to silence Maine citizens concerned about unethical practices and to prevent citizens from initiating ballot initiatives on wildlife issues.” She thinks the bill will “open the door to inhumane, unethical trapping and hunting practices,” calling the bill “a legal nightmare,” and claiming that “hunting and trapping and fishing are not fundamental rights.”

Humane Society of the U.S., of course, has long been an enemy of hunting and fishing, while passing itself off as being in favor of consumptive outdoor activities. The ploy makes it easier to gain support from those whose rights are being attacked.

Katie Hansberry, a HSUS spokesperson, agreed with Coker, saying, “We are concerned that putting a right to hunt in our constitution could amount to an open invitation for poachers to exploit it to their advantage, and could subject longstanding conservation laws to legal challenge from those arguing that this constitutional right exempts them from existing restrictions like bag limits or prohibitions on spotlight or road hunting.”

Twenty-one state legislatures disagree, having passed such bills to protect the rights of hunters and fishers in their states. Texas is, thankfully, one of those, but has only guaranteed hunting and fishing rights since November 2015.

Poaching continues to be a problem all over the country, but it has not become more prevalent in states that protect citizen rights. Maine’s proposed bill, like all the others, would in no way negate current game laws. Ethical hunters and fishermen have always, in fact, been among the strongest proponents of responsible wildlife conservation practices. This stands to reason, since wildlife conservation is almost entirely funded by sportsmen and women.

Our outdoor heritage will always be under attack by the likes of Mr. Glowa, Ms. Coker, Ms. Hansberry, and the rest of the anti-hunting crowd. Thankfully, it will always have the support of people like Wiggie Robinson. We all need to remember that, if we take our rights for granted, we are likely to lose them.

 

Aguila Cup, Texas Armament

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Email Kendal Hemphill at [email protected]

 

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