So this past weekend I took part in the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Hunter Education Program.
This is a link to their page if you would like more information: ODNR Hunter education Information
It was a 2 day course w/ an exam at the end that you must pass in order to obtain a hunting license in Ohio. The reason I wanted to take the course is that I have never gone hunting, my dad never encouraged hunting or any self sufficient lifestyle as I was growing up... however I have always been very intrigued w/ fishing, hunting and farming.
So, I finally decided it was time to pursue this.
The course was a bit surprising on many levels. Mainly the amount of information I learned about hunting in general and the fact that half of the course participants were 10 and under (there were about 40 people there).
Some really cool things I learned is that hunting regulations came into effect from the actual hunters themselves. In the 1800's the settlers pretty much hunted and killed everything and destroyed all of the habitats that the wildlife lived in by clearing land for farming and draining marshes and wetlands for farming as well.
The hunters got to a point where there was nothing left to kill. There were ZERO white tail deer left in the state of Ohio, after conservation and regulation efforts, there are over 550,00 white tail deer in Ohio in 2000.
Wild turkeys were completely eliminated from Ohio as well. Nesting pairs were reintroduced in the 1950's and now there are over 200,000 wild turkeys as of the year 2000.
Bald eagles were hunted down to only 4 nesting pairs in 1979. Again through conservation and regulation, there were 63 nesting pairs in the year 2000.
This is huge! Our state went from almost a completely depleted area to being a lush area of wildlife. Now this isn't just for the hunters, nature lovers enjoy the animals as well and by insuring a safe lush habitat for the animals it means that the earth is better off in the end as well.
So all that was new to me. By restricting hunting seasons they allow animals to reproduce and restock the environment. But what about killing the animals?
Now this is the touchy subject that people are VERY opinionated about. Here's the thing, by initially killing off all the animals and predators, there is no "natural control" of the land anymore. Habitats can only sustain a certain number of animals... this is called a carrying capacity. (The number of each wildlife species that can live w/in a certain area and remain healthy and not damage the habitat)
So if we did not hunt the animals and thin the heard essentially they will be overcrowded and die off from starvation, disease, poor habitat. A quick example is that there is only so much cover for waterfowl since we got rid of most of the wetlands in Ohio. The more waterfowl there are the less available cover there will be ... which means that they will not have proper living conditions, get disease or starve to death.
Hunting is not always done for sport or food. Sometimes it is done to control populations of certain species.
A majority of Ohio's park system as been created and preserved due to hunting money. I did not know this. Hunting brings in big money to the state and is SELF FUNDED (meaning they do not get money from the government). Park systems were created to ensure a proper habitat for the different species and are enjoyed by sportsmen and nature lovers alike. So if you love nature but hate hunting... you kind of owe hunters credit for creating those parks you enjoy so much.
So more or less wildlife management is a big deal and has been maintained through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources wildlife officers.
I learned all sorts of other cool stuff like the responsibility of the hunter is to train and practice properly to ensure a quick humane kill each time. Laws that were enacted that have reduced hunting injuries by over 80% in just one year of being active... etc.
This course was held at the Portage Summit Field & Stream Club and was about an hour from my house. It is free in the state of Ohio and an EXCELLENT source of information regarding our park system and hunting in general. The instructors were very friendly and very knowledgeable. The game warden for that county came in, introduced himself, and explained a lot of the state regulations to us as well. The course was geared to INFORMING the participants to be educated and aware of proper and safe hunting practices.
While there is a large responsibility to manage the wildlife populations, it is even more important for everyone to be safe and respectful of their environment around them.
Even if you do not plan on hunting, it was a great course to take to educate yourself regarding hunting and conservation efforts in the state of Ohio.
Thank you to the ODNR for putting on such a well instructed course.
Thank you for reading!