After reading a Delta Waterfowl article this summer about introducing “splash limits” to duck seasons to ramp up hunter participation, I couldn’t help but spit out the phrase (in)famous shark hunter Frank Mundus used when presented with a silly idea, or person. “Happy Horse Poop!” Only Mundus used a different word. You may recognize the name Mundus from writer Russell Drumm’s book, “In the Slick of the Cricket,” in which he profiles Mundus as the prototype for the Capt. Quint character in the timeless classic, “Jaws.”
But I stray off topic. Back to the ducks. The writer of the splash piece does a thorough job laying out the case of how allowing this sea change in rules could increase the number of people who duck hunt, gleaning perspectives from wildfowl biologists and sport hunters. So with Junior Hunt Day on Saturday and the second split of the waterfowl season next week, I read the article again, trying to maintain an open mind. Yet again, however, I was inspired to invoke Mundus’s catch-phrase.
Currently, it is just an idea, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has not undertaken formal discussions or scientific inquiry on the concept, and there aren’t plans to do so in the foreseeable future. I asked Josh Homyack, the Waterfowl Project Leader for Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, about it. He says while they’re aware of the conversations among the waterfowl community, splash limits haven’t been discussed formally or informally by the citizen wildlife advisory board or vetted internally within the agency. It’s something that’ll require a lot more time on the stove before it even begins to simmer, he adds.
No question, recruitment and retainment are formidable challenges confronting the waterfowl community, as they are in other shooting sports as well as fishing. The pro-splash limit folks say new people don’t waterfowl hunt because duck species are so similar it’s difficult to tell them apart, especially when on the wing and in low light. Also, rules dictating how many of which species you can shoot per day only adds to their confusion.
For me the main question is will making it easier to shoot ducks really result in greater participation? While I’m not one to quell discussion, I gotta say, once more with feeling, “Happy H.S.” to this one. It’s a slippery slope, fraught with pitfalls given gravely low numbers of canvasbacks and declining pintail populations, as well as the precarious status of a few other ducks. Not to mention that I can’t imagine it’d be anything but a nightmare for game wardens to sort out who shot what, and how many.
Moreover, doesn’t this approach simply surrender experience earned afield and the fostering of a sporting ethic for accelerated gratification? The heart of the waterfowl game is — or at should be, in my view — the joy we get from fooling wily, wild birds into landing feet first into a spread of plastic or cork blocks. The “splash” limit concept undermines that ethos, and comes dangerously close to a “bang, bang, bang” bag limit. I can see an inexperienced gunner capping a cormorant, or worse, a loon mistaking it for a merganser. Or a swan for a snow goose. “Whoa, bro. My bad.” If that’s where waterfowl hunting is headed, no thanks. I’ll go fishing.
FALL CLASSIC CAPS SERIES: For three days, Nov. 17-19, area striper anglers will pit their skills in the final tournament of the MSSA’s 2017 Tournament Series. Four events are already in the books, leaving the Fall Classic to determine not only the winner of big money but bragging rights as the sport fishing group’s “Captain of the Year.”
Teams can fish two of the three days — the Lay Day Rule is in effect for safety — and must text their boat/captain number, name, and Lay Day to (410) 709-8774 before the start of tourney or by 5 a.m. each day. If you don’t, MSSA officials will assume you fished Friday and Saturday.
All Captains Meetings listed below will be held from 6-8 p.m. Food and drinks are available, as well as door prizes. You can also register online and pick up your Captain’s Packet at the locations below or at MSSA’s headquarters. They recommend calling ahead to ensure a staff member is there to let you in.
Nov. 13, Island Tackle Outfitters, Kent Island; Nov. 14, Commodore Hall, Essex; Nov. 15, The Lighthouse Restaurant, Solomons Island; Nov. 16, AllTackle, Annapolis.
Nov. 10-12: 47th annual Waterfowl Festival, Easton. Artisans, carvers, and dog retreivingdemonstrations. Info at waterfowlfestival.org.
Nov. 11: Rocksgiving Tournament, sponsored by Devils Backbone Brewing Company. Register at rocksgiving.com.
Nov. 13: Pasadena Sportfishing Group meeting. Featured speaker is Robert Christy of Fish Nut Super Flash Mylar Lures. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. Meetings are free and open to the public. Earleigh Heights VFC, 161 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park. Details at pasadenasportfishing.com.
Nov 15: MSSA Annapolis Chapter meeting, featured speaker Capt. Randy Dean of Bay Hunter Fishing Charters discusses light tackle and trolling tactics. Gary Ritchie of Spankin’ Striper baits also in attendance. Starts at 7 p.m., American Legion Post #7, 1905 Crownsville Road, Crownsville.
Nov. 17-19: MSSA “Fall Classic” rockfish tournament. Register at mssa.net.
Nov. 19: Costa Fisheries Symposium, hosted by BASS PRO Shops, 7000 Arundel Mills Boulevard, Hanover. Experts and guides lead discussions on northern snakehead and blue catfish and their impact on local ecosystems. Attendees receive a light breakfast and box lunch. Registration is free but required: ccamd.org.
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