Tom Willman: Welcome to SteamBoulder |

Tom Willman: Welcome to SteamBoulder

Tom Willman / For the Steamboat Today

After participating in the Colorado Parks and Wildlife meeting Wednesday about the possible opening of sandhill crane hunting in Routt and Moffat counties, I felt like I was somehow in Boulder County, not Routt County. I walked out of that surreal gathering of the confused, frustrated and angry feeling as if I was on Baseline Road, not Colorado Highway 131.

Nothing is hunted in Colorado without "biological" need. Colorado has a very talented and dedicated staff of wildlife biologists who manage our incredible Colorado wildlife.

Thankfully, those experts and the hunting public are responsible for ensuring the success of our healthy and abundant wildlife, not some angry mob of well-meaning but ultimately ignorant folks who want to interfere with proven wildlife management.

I seldom have experienced a group of intelligent people who, after listening to wildlife experts skillfully present the science behind the need for this infinitesimal hunting season, be so incredibly deaf to the facts.

One gal yelled, "This is a disgrace to Colorado!" Other comments included: "What exactly does one do with a dead crane carcass?" and "How can we be sure none of our Yampa Valley cranes are not killed?"

I know that many of those against crane hunting are so-called "wildlife watchers." Great! But if you're a wildlife watcher and don't own a Colorado habitat stamp, shame on you. The habitat stamp program is really what you should be promoting using your energy and talents. Since the stamp's introduction in 2006, proceeds have raised more than $3 million annually, with every penny going to protect wildlife habitat.

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By the same token, if you're a hunter, you simply must contact Parks and Wildlife and support "the hunt" because these people mean business and they are working every day to take away your hunting privileges and rights, notwithstanding our precious right to bear arms as provided by the Second Amendment.

As a hunter, if you don't want to hunt cranes, you don't have to. But don't fall into the opposition's trap, because they will use your statements against crane hunting to defeat your larger wildlife management views.

The crowd of anti-hunters at the meeting last week was quite proud that it was the "majority voice" in the room. I reckon they thought that most of us mindless, bloodthirsty, Bungalow Bills would be home watching "Swamp People" or "Doomsday Preppers." Maybe they were right. Wise up, hunters — we are under attack.

Among much of the misinformation flying around out there is the myth that Colorado is doing this to make money. There is no charge for the crane permit, as it is granted under the current program for small game, combination fishing and hunting, including the required Colorado waterfowl stamp and habitat stamps. The federal duck stamp is not required to hunt cranes in Colorado, which in itself is very telling.

The fact is the proposed hunt is so small, with only 20 to 50 permits issued, that the hunt could take place and no one other than the lucky permit holders would even know it happened. And if a permit holder were lucky enough to harvest the one crane allowed per hunter, and you were a friend or family of that lucky hunter, you might be invited over for one of the most wonderful epicurean delights afield — free range, of course. We waterfowl hunters refer to the tasty sandhill crane as "ribeye from the sky."

Hunting, of course, takes courage and skill, but there also is a large element of luck. Just because the state issues 20 to 50 permits does not mean 20 to 50 sandhill cranes will be harvested here. If the state does not issue the allotted number of permits proposed with a Routt and Moffat county crane hunt, the permits will not just go away. Instead, the state will continue to forfeit its permits to another state for its crane hunting season. In other words, stopping the Colorado hunt will not save cranes from being hunted.

I've learned in my short 61 years that not everyone condones the time-honored tradition of hunting, and that's just fine. Very few, however, understand the complexities, techniques and difficulties involved in the actual harvesting of any game, not to mention the utter personal responsibility that each hunter must assume by law. Frankly, it's not for the faint of heart. Predictably, the anti-hunting crowd now will use the sandhill crane as its new mascot to discredit, defame and harass those of us who believe, as Henry David Thoreau did, that "… the hunter is the greatest friend of the animals hunted, not excepting the Humane Society."

So, remember the words of the great Thoreau when all of you anti-hunting folks are sitting on your little golden ponds in what I now call SteamBoulder: "Fishermen, hunters, woodchoppers, and others, spending their lives in the fields and woods, in a peculiar sense a part of Nature themselves, are often in a more favorable mood for observing her, in the intervals of their pursuits, than philosophers or poets even, who approach her with expectation."

And for all those who just don't understand why I hunt, I do so because, as the distinguished philosopher of Spain Ortega y Gasset wrote, "Hunting gives me a vacation from the human condition, which, all by itself, is a full and satisfactory reason!"

After seeing that crowd the other night, I need a vacation.

Tom Willman is a longtime Routt County resident.

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