IT WAS THE Archduke Ferdinand moment in the ongoing struggle for hunting and fishing access and opportunities.
Just as the assassination of the Archduke was the first domino that fell in the game of death and chaos called World War 1, Washington’s full closure of hunting, fishing and public land access has signaled a new level of attack on consumptive outdoor pursuits.
In a decree issued in March and last updated just before this went to press, all recreational fishing and shell fishing were closed in Washington until further notice statewide in response to the governor’s order to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” and “limit the spread of coronavirus.”
This also applied to hunting and even extended to all camping on state lands, boat launches, and day-use recreation areas.
Similar restrictions soon appeared in Oregon, California, and a host of other states. Not all were state closures as some counties and cities shut down lake access and public land use under their jurisdiction.
Sadly, I knew this would happen—actually, I predicted it.
In my podcast Higher Calling (on ITunes, Iheartradio) I predicted animal rights groups would use this crisis to push temporary bans on access and do so through weak and easily influenced bureaucrats.
That has happened all over the place.
Even the great outdoor state of Montana has had numerous lakes shut down because of COVID-19.
The confirmation that animal rightists were using this as an opportunity was when officials with the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Department made a major press announcement. They were being inundated with reports of telecalls and social media messages of all hunting and fishing closed there.
The reports were untrue. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the only people who would have the motive, funding, and energy to do telecalls faking hunting and fishing closures would be animal rights groups.
It is no secret there has for decades been a widespread effort to end hunting, fishing, and trapping. In my opinion, widespread efforts now exist to use this crisis to shut out hunters and anglers.
I call it Operation Covert-19.
This operation is taking genuine concern and fear of the spreading of the virus and putting it on the least likely place to catch it—in the woods and on the water.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott dared to deem hunting and fishing “essential activities” while bureaucrats all over the nation found different ways to restrict hunting and fishing.
Operation Covert-19 will come in three waves.
1. The aforementioned closures in various states and municipalities around the nation.
2. Anti-hunting groups (which I have been monitoring on social media) have been promoting the myriad stories about wildlife returning to areas and showing no fear in national parks etc. now that people are out of the way. It has been promoted as a “return to nature’s true ways” and is extremely widespread. Look for numerous television programs to come out on this topic in the coming months on major networks. The lack of people in wilderness areas will be heralded and they will mention hunting and fishing closures as a positive for wildlife.
3. As fish and wildlife agencies around the nation scramble for funding (and it’s already happening) these groups will push for season closures because of a lack of surveys. Many wildlife and fisheries surveys that happen seasonally to determine whether bag limits, seasons, etc. were shut down.
4. They will also take advantage of the lack of funding for enforcement and research in some areas and push for incremental closures. It won’t be statewide, but will be piece by piece. Mark my words. This is coming.
If this crisis looms into fall you will major hunting clampdowns around the nation. The fishing closures will continue and most likely increase. There has already been talk about COVID-19 potentially becoming a seasonal issue, so access could be changed on an annual basis.
One of the animal rights groups I am monitoring has its sole focus as ending hunting, and they are salivating at the opportunities described in this column. They are daily praising the closures we’ve already had and have even posted comments about the pandemic being a good thing because it’s killing people who kill animals.
I can’t emphasize enough this will be done on local levels. States with initiative and referendum procedures, which allow for issues to be voted on by the public if they have enough signatures, may see some statewide battles.
This process is how animal rightists have seen numerous bear and mountain lion hunting closures over the last 20 years.
We are truly living in a brave new world. No one can accurately predict where this is headed in terms of the virus itself and the economy. However, knowing the animal rights crowd, I am fully confident the things I have written about here are already in play.
Texas will see far less of it than other states, but we should get in the fight anyway. We should support the right to access hunting and fishing in other states.
The Trump Administration just proposed expanding federal refuge hunting and fishing by more than 2.3 million acres, which is a very good thing. But don’t let that fool you. That has no impact on Operation Covert-19.
The rats that run the animal rights groups are in the shadows and waiting for the right time to emerge in each municipality. A quick economic comeback would lessen their impact and a cure, as would a dissipation of the virus.
If you see any fishing or hunting closure in local venues, continue to email me at [email protected] You can be watchmen on the wall so to speak and help us keep the public educated about what’s going on.
We can win this thing if we’re willing to do the research and stand up to these threats when they come.
The public’s health and economy should be the first priorities, but we can’t be lax in defending our right to hunt and fish-even during a pandemic.
Email Chester Moore at [email protected]