James Pinsky: Want a nice rack? Be a conservationist
Deer season is coming.
Many hunters, the good ones anyway, never really stop hunting. We scout year-around. We practice with our weapons of choice year-around. We update our hunting equipment, fix and place tree stands, and learn new techniques – again, year around.
Why? Well, to be successful, of course. And while the debate may rage on forever as to what exactly success is among hunters, I doubt most of us would argue harvesting a buck with a big rack is a bad thing.
So, being a hunter myself I’d like to remind all of my white-tailed deer chasing brothers and sisters out there to remember to practice being a conservationist just as much as we practice shooting our bows, rifles and shotguns. That we should, we must, be stewards first and stalkers second not just because it will help our world but because being a good conservationist will help us find and harvest bigger, healthier white-tailed deer.
How can we do this? After all, it’s not like we can go check Bambi’s food dish and water bowl daily like we do for Fido.
Like most conservation programs, a healthy wild game population often starts with access to clean, safe water. You see, those trophy deer we’re spending hundreds and maybe thousands of dollars and hours to find and hunt don’t get their water from a bottle. Nope, they drink it straight from the draft from sources like the Shenandoah River, lakes, local farm ponds, puddles, streams, and creeks.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are many activities and events known to cause poor water quality in our rivers and lakes, including: agricultural runoff; storm water runoff , such as that from roads and urban areas plus bypasses from wastewater treatment plants during high rain events; domestic and industrial wastewater discharges; erosion, such as that from construction sites, unpaved roads, agricultural fields, and bare shorelines and river banks; leachate from hazardous waste sites, landfills, and septic tanks; and spills, such as those from oil and gas operations or transportation.
Sound familiar? It should because these same water problems hurt not just white-tailed deer but rabbits, crows, skunks (Do we really need them to smell any worse?) and ultimately us. As hunters, as conservationists, we ought to take a leadership role in our communities to help ensure our local water supplies are accessible, clean and renewable.
We here at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District are dedicated to helping anyone who wants to maintain and improve the quality and health of our soil and water. We facilitate several programs that help landowners improve their soil and water health, and we partner with other local, state and federal agencies which can and do much, much more.
To be a conservationist, we don’t need to hug trees; although, I’ve heard they don’t mind. We do need to care, however. How can we care? By doing simple acts like not littering, keeping pollutants out of driveways, lawns and water ways, and planting soil-saving trees or even establishing riparian buffers. As hunters we might think about volunteering with local groups dedicated to improving our natural resources as well. After all, ensuring our wild game have plentiful, healthy food and water sources does a lot more than help white-tailed deer grow big and strong, it can make our entire world a better place.
So, the next time you’re shooting your bow or mending a tree stand, remember to practice your conservation skills as well. It’s just as important to having a successful hunting season not just this year but for generations to come.
James Pinsky is the education and information coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or firstname.lastname@example.org.