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Hunter’s Corner: Derby changes for the better

The Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby under the new format is a fading memory for most. As for me, I got weathered out.

My game plan was to fish with longtime fishing and hunting buddy Bill on Saturday, then Bill and Robb on Sunday. Bill came down with a severe head cold, so that killed off Saturday. Even if he could make it, with winds gusting over 35 mph there was no way we could make it on the ice. Sunday was a loss because Robb didn’t have any snowshoes. That said, I think what the Rotary has done to change the derby in terms of legal fish to qualify for the grand prizes and making the prizes cash were great changes.

There were many benefits to the changes. The first is the reduced fishing pressure to the five lakes that were stocked with tagged rainbow trout. The second was to the winners. Let’s say you won the big prize. Congratulations, you now have to come up with IRS estimated payment on the value of the prize you just won. The way it is now, the IRS payment will just be deducted from your prize.

I think the entrant numbers increased this year. Given the changes that were made, the number of entrants will increase next year as long as the ice comes in on schedule.

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Last week I mentioned the Colorado method of funding search and rescue as a program to consider. I received some interesting comments as well as a copy of the annual report for fiscal year 2009/2010 of the fund operation. The fund is administered by the Department of Local Affairs and the search and rescues are carried out by county sheriffs. The Colorado Fish and Wildlife Department is not involved.

Sixty-seven percent of the revenue is provided by sportsmen; 15 percent by non-sportsman, 17 percent by OHV, boat and snowmobile users and 1 percent by miscellaneous. Reimbursed missions by revenue source consist of 58 percent sportsmen, 18 percent non-sportsman, 17 percent OHV/boat/snowmobile, 7 percent non-participant. Clearly, the sportsmen are footing the lion share of the revenue and everyone else is getting a bargain. The Colorado model won’t work here. We just don’t have the numbers.

The Chandler bill would be a good start. That said, it is time for the legislature to recognize the rooms and meals tax, business profits tax and gas tax that tourists bring into New Hampshire and a meager allocation of these resources would be a preferred solution. A lost child or a dementia senior are exceptions to the rule. An unprepared hiker is another story.

It may be at some point in time, owing to a lack of adequate funding, support will alter the search and rescue mission to search and recovery mission. General funding is the preferred funding manner, the Chandler bill is a stop-gap second and better than no funding solution. The governor’s budget requests $200,000 in general funds for search and rescue. To her credit, this is the first governor in my memory who has recognized the problem and provided a general fund solution.

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Poaching continues to be a serious problem in New Hampshire. At one point, a major reason for poaching was to supplement a family’s food requirements. With the ease and accessibility of food stamps, that is no longer a justification. Outlaw activity is one that is handed down generation to generation. Others find the temptation to break the law just too compelling. Poaching, by definition, is the illegal take of game and fish, trespassing, littering, theft or destroying property.

Operation Game Thief (OGT) is a silent witness, anti-poaching program that encourages the public to report any suspicious activity or knowledge about a poaching violation. The toll-free hotline (800-344-4262) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to report wildlife violations. People can also report violations online atwildlife.com/OGT.

The Law Enforcement Division at Fish and Game has many outstanding, talented and dedicated members. One such individual is Sgt. Wayne Saunders. Realizing the need for greater public awareness about poaching, Sgt. Saunders coordinated a fundraising program to raise $30,000 to create a traveling exhibit to be housed in a mobile trailer.

Key supporters included the Wildlife Heritage Foundation of New Hampshire, which provided a $10,000 grant, and Rymes Propane &Oils, LL Cote in Errol, Bear County Power Sports in Errol, and the New Hampshire Wildlife Federation, who each contributed $5,000.

Fish and Game is working with The Trailer Outlet in Winnisquam to have the custom trailer built. The completion target date is September. Hopefully it will be available for the annual hunting and fishing day celebration.

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Like many, I enjoy watching the hunting and fishing shows on the various channels, especially those about Alaska. There is a new show on the National Geographic channel called “Wicked Tuna.” The show features three veteran tuna boat captains from Gloucester, Mass., and one young upstart from Rye Harbor. It is both educational and entertaining. It is fascinating how these commercial fishermen catch tuna on rods and reels sporting a single baited hook. If you are looking for a wicked good fishing show, try “Wicked Tuna.”

(Bob Washburn can be reached at hunterscorner@aol.com.)

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