Pay Attention To What Your State Wildlife Officials Are Doing

A few months back I told you about some potential legislation in Oregon that would have adversely affected gundog owners and trainers. Basically, the proposed legislation would have required a state permit for anyone releasing pen-raised birds for dog training purposes.

In addition, it would have limited the number of birds a person could release to a whopping three. These rules would have turned most amatuer and virtually all professional trainers in Oregon into criminals.

Happily, after much input from gundog owners and trainers, falconers and others who rely on pen-raised birds for training, the Oregon Game & Fish Commission came to its senses and scuttled those proposals.

From this story in the Mail-Tribune:
_Field trainers will be able to release and shoot domestically raised birds year-round when they're training hunting dogs and raptors under a new set of rules approved by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on Thursday. The change is designed to bring common training practices in line with Oregon wildlife laws. Under the new rules, dog trainers and falconers can get a free, self-issued permit through the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's website to release pen-raised pheasants for training, provided the birds are marked properly and the trainer has all the necessary hunting licenses, tags and validations.

Trainers will be allowed to work their animals in game-bird nesting habitat year-round as long as wildlife is not harassed. Under past rules, field training in nesting habitat from April through July was considered wildlife harassment and was illegal without a permit. A tract in Denman Wildlife Area in White City is one of a handful of state-owned wildlife areas where field training will be allowed. The new rules include the creation of a formal pursuit season -- from Sept. 1 through Jan. 31 -- for dogs to chase wild-born upland game birds such as quail. The new rules do not apply to non-hunting dogs._

It's a good example of how even a relatively small demographic like gundog enthusiasts can have a positive impact on policy issues affecting their sport, just by showing up and voicing their concerns. And while this was a state-specific issue, you can bet that at some point, as more and more non-hunting groups clamor for access to public land for their activities, that gundog training as well as field trials on public land will increasingly become a target as a "non-compatible use."

Don't let it happen. Pay attention to what your state legislature and your state game and fish commission are doing. We don't have the numbers that deer or turkey hunters boast, so we have to make up for it by being more insistent when issues do come up.