Case: These outdoors topics should be on your mind

Wyoming Department of Transportation employees Richard Wilson and Shirley Weerhein pick up the carcass of an elk killed by a vehicle along Highway 191 between Camp Creek and Poison Creek on Dec. 18, 2018. The agency's employees are not trained to take lymph node samples from dead animals for chronic waste disease testing before dropping them off at the county's dead animal pit.
Wyoming Department of Transportation employees Richard Wilson and Shirley Weerhein pick up the carcass of an elk killed by a vehicle along Highway 191 between Camp Creek and Poison Creek on Dec. 18, 2018. The agency's employees are not trained to take lymph node samples from dead animals for chronic waste disease testing before dropping them off at the county's dead animal pit.
photo Contributed photo / Larry Case

I have written about this before. Lots of people will tell you their glasses are not half empty, they are half full. That's a clever saying, and I know we all should be more optimistic, not pessimistic. I agree with that, and I know this is the best way to look at things, but like always, I probably don't do it. I tell folks sometimes I am not a pessimist, I am a realist.

Well, we could argue that one till all the cows come home.

So I am told we have a new year in front of us, and for hunters and fishermen (yes, that means boys and girls) there are certain issues looming before us. There are some dark clouds on the horizon, but things are not all bad. You can go over this incomplete list and see what level your own glass is at right now. Here are some things, in no particular order, for you to ponder for 2019 if you tend to have a fishing rod, a shotgun and muddy boots in your truck at times.

photo After removing lymph nodes for disease testing, Wyoming Game and Fish Department chronic wasting disease biologist Aaron Morehead hauls out bags filled with hunter-killed elk heads destined for the county's dead animal pit in December 2018.

» Chronic wasting disease. Often referred to by the abbreviation CWD, this problem has been in the news for several years, and if you are a deer hunter and have never heard it, you may just want to go back under your rock. First discovered in Colorado in 1967, CWD has been identified as a member of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies group of diseases, and it is associated with similar ailments, such as mad cow disease and scrapie in sheep. CWD is caused by a prion, an obscure form of a protein - it is neither virus nor bacteria. The prions affect the brain tissue of the infected animal and eventually cause weight loss and death. CWD can infect all members of the cervid (deer) family, it is always fatal and at this time there is no test that can be conducted on a live animal to determine infection.

Nearly once a week we hear of another discovery of CWD in a deer herd somewhere. Captive herds have long been blamed for much of the CWD spread, but there have also been CWD discoveries in areas that have never had captive deer around. Several states have banned the use of natural deer urine and other gland lures because biologists hold that the use of these products from infected deer spread CWD.

The real danger to hunting and hunting numbers here will be if authorities ever make the determination that eating venison from a deer infected with CWD will give humans some form of the disease. So far this has not been the case. Stay tuned.

» Hunter numbers and recruitment. In 1970, more than 40 million of us in America bought hunting licenses. Today the number is more like 12.5 million. That trend is likely to continue if those of us who hunt don't do something about it. But is it possible to do anything about this? I don't know, but we have to try.

For young hunters, finding a place to go hunting and getting someone to take them is getting harder every year. The internet, cellphones and public perception of hunters in general have all been blamed for young people not flocking to hunting as in the past. Part of this equation is most states rely on license money for conservation-based funding. Along with this comes a double whammy: As the number of licensed hunters drops, so does the amount of money doled out to the states by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which bases each state's share on the number of licenses sold.

The new movement to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters is the latest endeavor to boost numbers. We must recruit new hunters whenever possible, retain the ones we have by offering as many hunting opportunities and places to hunt as possible, and we must seek out those who were hunters but for one reason or another have left the fold.

» The need for unity among sportsmen. Hunters, fishermen and other outdoors people seem to go out of their way to argue about things. The length of various seasons for game animals, the bag limits, the use of various public lands and other game management issues are often hotly debated. When are our sportsmen going to wake up and realize all this bickering only hurts what we are trying to preserve and protect? I am at the point where I say maybe never.

Bow hunters, gun hunters, hunting dog handlers, big game fans and small game fans have to learn to get along and play well together. The use of the time during the hunting season from early fall till late winter, as well as how the seasons are spaced out on public land, are all a matter of compromise. There has to be give and take. The season that is your favorite is not necessarily the "best" or the one that should get the most attention. Remember, there is a guy on the other side of the aisle who feels the same about his type of hunting.

Well, there you have it. At least this will give you something to discuss at the barber shop and the hardware store.

I give you these thoughts not to be a prophet of doom but just to remind you of things we need to think about.

Think about how much liquid is in that glass of yours. We all need to raise that level a little this year, and that includes me, too.

"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at larryocase3@gmail.com.

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