by Steve Piatt
(Opinion piece published in New York Outdoor News, Vol 15, No. 09, May 3, 2019)
The invitation came via email, and I immediately chuckled.
Then I got angry.
It was an invitation to attend the New York Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus Annual Sportsman Legislator Breakfast in Albany.
On May 1.
The lawmakers apparently are unaware that May 1 is the opening day of the state's spring gobbler season, and generally regarded as a big deal for many sportsmen, including myself.
And these are the folks who are supposedly in our corner - as the invitation stated, a bipartisan "group of state legislators united to protect and advance our time-honored sporting traditions in the Empire State."
They've been around now for 15 years, so let's look at their track record of "advancing" hunting and fishing in New York state.
Sure, it was a major victory a few years back when the state lowered its minimum hunting age for big game with a firearm from 16 to 14. Let's keep in mind, however, that this improved regulation remains the most restrictive in the country.
Crossbows are now allowed during a portion of the regular archery season, but lawmakers have been unable to "advance" legislation that would expand it into the entire archery season, notably for seniors and physically challenged hunters.
Environmental conservation officers and forest rangers are generally regarded as operating short staffed. The state's fish hatchery system - which has, in fact, seen millions of dollars funneled into much-needed upgrades - needs further work, especially at the Salmon River hatchery, where water problems persist.
Do we really need to mention the SAFE Act and other gun restrictions passed by the Legislature this year? Or the proposal to shutter the state's last remaining pheasant rearing facility?
Thanks, for the breakfast invitation, folks. But wouldn't it be more productive to invite some of your downstate, Democratic colleagues and educate them as to the importance of hunting and fishing New York, our traditions, and the economic impact our sports provide?
That's what the breakfast agenda is offering: an opportunity to outline the positive impacts hunting and fishing provide in New York state and "the role our sporting traditions play in providing critical conservation dollars" through the American system of conservation funding for the DEC.
I already know that, and I don't need to drive to Albany on the opening day of the spring gobbler season to hear state lawmakers outline all that and use those time-worn phrases like "I pledge to you" and "working together" and "our great pastimes."
Thanks, but instead I'll "advance" hunting in New York state by taking afield a youngster or newbie hunter who may not otherwise have a pathway to the sport. They may even harvest their first-ever gobbler.
If they do, we'll go to the local diner for breakfast.