They will arrive with loaded rifles, shotguns and handguns, they will be wearing everything from camouflage to fluorescent orange, and as the Everett Herald reports today, nobody will be stopping the army of hunters headed afield for this weekend’s general deer season opener in Washington State.
This news comes at the same time the Colorado Division of Wildlife is posting this notice on its website: “The federal government may be closed but 23 million acres of federal lands are still open for hunting in Colorado.”
A check with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks this morning confirmed that nobody is running bowhunters out of the national forests, though at least some national forest campgrounds appear to be closed. The Wyoming Game & Fish Department website also notifies hunters that public lands remain open. Over the past weekend in Washington, muzzleloaders were busy in several areas within national forests, and nobody was telling them to pack up and go home.
A brouhaha is erupting in Alaska, however, where 49th state lawmakers are angry at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for allegedly violating a 1980 federal law by preventing hunting on public land under its control while the government shutdown continues. The Washington Times quotes Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) saying, “It seems that agencies are working harder to keep people off federal lands than they have ever worked before to get them to visit federal lands.”
If anyone in the Oval Office needs a lesson on drawing lines, this is it. It is one thing to stop tourists from viewing Old Faithful, and something quite different to block convoys of hunters heading to their favorite campsites and hunting grounds. Perhaps not attempting to close federal wild lands this fall – with the possible exception of the Fish & Wildlife Service – is a subtle acknowledgement that the Obama administration knows better than to infuriate that segment of the electorate now bringing its guns out of closets, cabinets and safes.
In the Evergreen State, people with guns will descend on national forests around Colville, Okanogan, Chelan, Wenatchee, Cle Elum and Naches; the kind of scenario that causes gun prohibitionists to shiver in their sandals. Many are heading out today to set up camp, and others will depart tomorrow for the Saturday opener.
An exception is reportedly happening at the Turnbull Wildlife Refuge near Cheney, according to Northwest Sportsman magazine. There, a handicapped hunter who drew once-in-a-lifetime cow elk permit is out of luck, it appears, because the refuge is closed.
Long story short: The Obama administration may play games with tourists and, as alleged by a park ranger, “make life as difficult for people as we can” while the president continues his “I’m the king” temper tantrum over the budget, but any effort to keep a few million hunters off of federal land that they essentially own would fail more miserably than the Obamacare website launch.
Almost two weeks into the government shut-down and there are indications that a lot of people are finding that nothing much has changed. Their income taxes are still being withheld; they still get recordings rather than live humans when calling government agencies and nobody has declared anarchy, though it may seem so on Capitol Hill, where leadership is in shorter supply than legal branch-antlered bucks in Yakima County.
Another myth that needs to be put down like a rabid wolf is the fear mongering suggestion that the National Instant Check System might shut down, thus making gun purchases impossible. The FBI is operating NICS during normal business hours, according to Bullet Points, the weekly newsletter from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Perhaps the solution to troubles in “the other Washington” would be to bring the key players together around a campfire somewhere up on the Little Rattlesnake or the Kettle Crest. Feed them camp chili, remind them that it gets cold at night if someone doesn’t keep the wood pile stocked, and that morning comes early in the High Lonesome and there is no breakfast unless they fix it, themselves.
The onset of hunting season just might provide a reality check for government. People used to taking care of themselves beyond the pavement’s end really don’t need a lot of “governing.”
What they really need, and want, is to be left alone. How horrible would it be if that philosophy were to spread?