Do not use us as political pawns

Published 12:01 am Friday, March 21, 2008

My name is Keith Whitehead and I would like to express my concerns over recent events regarding the wildlife baiting issue. Let me start by saying that I am opposed to baiting deer and turkey. I have had the privilege of hunting in Franklin County since I was old enough to carry a gun. I was enraged recently to receive a ballot from our Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission asking for a “For” or “Against” vote on their proposed language for a new regulation regarding hunting with the aid of bait.

I would like to go on record as saying that it was, without a doubt, one of the most ludicrous things I’ve ever read.

It is obvious that the commission fully expects the sportsmen of this state to reject this language and is planning to use the so called “survey” to advise the legislature that the sportsmen are therefore opposed to baiting. It would seem that the proposed language was constructed toward that end. I don’t particularly like being played as a pawn in a political shoving match between the Legislature and the MDWFP Commission.

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If baiting is to be allowed, it should be fair and without condition to all sportsmen.

According to the law enforcement division of MDWFP, the fine for baiting deer is currently $25. This is less than I pay for my Sportsman’s license. A fine of this size will not discourage anyone who desires to hunt with the aid of bait. They simply continue to bait and start saving for their next fine. Therefore, hunters who are currently breaking the law will continue to break a new law comprised of the proposed language.

Although the our enforcement agents are very competent, they have been faced with budget cuts which have taken men from the field and reduced the number of work days of those who remain. Due to small fines and the lack of additional penalties for baiting, the current law against baiting cannot be adequately enforced. If MDWFP cannot enforce the law currently on the books, how do they propose to enforce a new law with the proposed language and all of the new restrictions it entails?

The MDWFP Web site refers to the form which they sent to me as a survey. A survey generally allows for input from the recipient and for an opportunity to explain his/her thoughts concerning the issues. Dr. Sam Polles, executive director of MDWFP, is quoted on the MDWFP Web site as saying “input from our sporting enthusiasts is of paramount importance in this process.” The document I received has the word ballot printed on the front. It allows for no input from me concerning this issue other than my voting ‘For’ or ‘Against’ the proposed language of the regulation.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I am proud to be a Mississippian. I enjoy hunting in Mississippi and I enjoy scouting early in the season for the best area to hunt. In the last few years, looking for the food source and for well used trails has resulted in the food source being a corn feeder on the neighbor’s property and the well used trails leading in that direction. Sportsmen who abide by the law should not have to contend with this. I am in favor of stiff fines for baiting and for added penalties such as the temporary loss of hunting privileges for repeat offenders.

Please help the sportsmen and sportswomen of Mississippi get the word out that we don’t like being used as pawns in a political battle. As public servants, the Legislature and the MDWFP Commission should be listening to us rather than using us to further their own agendas.

Keith Whitehead

Roxie resident