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Hunter

Hunter’s Corner: Last chances for the moose hunt

Thursday is the last moose lottery for the Northeast in Vermont, but this is not your last chance. The Wildlife Foundation of New Hampshire has an Aug. 9 deadline for its auction.

Five moose hunt permits are available through the annual auction, which benefits the foundation. The highest winning bidder will also receive a 50-percent off coupon toward the purchase of a state-of-the-art Redemption muzzleloading rifle courtesy of LHR Sporting Arms in Rochester. The next four highest bidders get a free N.H. 2013 fishing, hunting, bear or turkey license of their choosing.

As the official nonprofit partner of N.H. Fish and Game, the foundation is authorized to auction up to five permits to the five highest bidders. Proceeds from the auction help support critical fish and wildlife conservation initiatives along with education programs of N.H. Fish and Game, such as canine search and rescue, Barry Youth Conservation Camp, Owl Brook Hunter Education Center, The Discovery Center at Great Bay, Operation Game Thief, Orphan Bear Cub Rehabilitation Center, as well as a host of others.

Last year, the auction garnered 12 bids from 11 states, with the highest bid at $8,750. Two winners came from New Hampshire, two from Massachusetts and one from Pennsylvania.

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There is a new anti-hunting organization in Maine that has announced its intent to qualify a ballot initiative before the voters to ban the most successful methods of controlling bear numbers in Maine. Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting is actually backed by the nation’s largest anti-hunting organization, the Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

The goal of the organization and its ballot initiative is to ban bear hunting using hounds, bait and trapping. The group must gather nearly 57,277 valid signatures by February 3 to place the issue before Maine voters in the November 2014 election.

Maine voters shot down an identical measure financed by HSUS nearly 10 years ago. In 2004, the measure was defeated 53 percent to 47 percent. Earlier this year, HSUS backed legislation to ban bear trapping and bear hunting with hounds. The bill was unanimously voted down by a joint legislative committee.

The irony of this situation is that Maine has the largest black bear population in the continental U.S. As the bear population increases, the number of nuisance bear complaints increases. HSUS’s bear hunting ban would politicize wildlife management and take this important tool out of the hands of the state’s bear biologists. This is a stellar example why I am glad New Hampshire does not have referenda voting.

“The citizens of Maine and their elected representatives have already spoken on this issue,” said Evan Heusinkveld, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance director of government affairs. “They have rejected the false claims of outside groups because they understand that using hounds, bait and trapping methods to hunt bear in the state are humane and important tools for controlling the bear population, for public safety and for protecting agriculture.”

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its report on 2013 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June. New Hampshire’s breeding survey information has yet to be released. Total populations were estimated at 45.6 million breeding ducks in the surveyed area. This estimate represents a 6-percent decrease from last year’s estimate of 48.6 million birds and is 33 percent above the 1955-2012 long-term average (LTA).

“This spring saw abundant moisture in much of the heart of North America’s most important duck breeding area,” Ducks Unlimited Chief Scientist Dale Humburg said. “That bodes well for duck breeding success this summer and hopefully, for hunting this fall. But we remain concerned with continuing loss of nesting habitat in these areas. Because ducks need both water and upland habitats to successfully raise their young, the ongoing loss of grasslands and wetlands across the Prairie Pothole Region will continue to impact the number of ducks in the fall flight.”

“We must maintain our focus on protecting and restoring important habitat across the birds’ range in order to see these kinds of numbers in future wet years,” said DU CEO Dale Hall.

“This year we also experienced very late winter conditions across much of the United States and Canada,” Humburg said. “These conditions delayed the arrival of some ducks on their traditional breeding grounds and may have impacted breeding and nesting success.”

Some of the comparisons to the LTA shape up as follows: mallard +36 percent, green-winged teal +51 percent, blue-winged teal +60 percent, northern shoveler +96 percent and redhead +76 percent. Locally, wood duck populations continue to expand.

New Hampshire has some excellent duck and goose hunting opportunities and it is a wonder why we don’t have more waterfowl hunters. The initial decline took place when mandatory use of steel shot came on the landscape. Initially, owing to the steel shot and the ratio of cripples to harvested ducks, even more hunters threw in the towel. Most successful duck hunters use a dog.

Not everyone has the time and patience to train a dog. But if you have a canoe or kayak, you have the opportunity for greater access and retrieval. There are about 4,500 duck hunters in New Hampshire and if you are toying with the opportunity to hunt waterfowl, take the chance and get the state and federal stamps. It will be worth your while.

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

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