Learning when to let live
If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Learning when to let live
Last week’s senseless and illegal kill of one of the few elk in McCreary County was uncalled for. Last winter’s relocation and release in McCreary County of Rocky Mountain Elk from other counties in KY’s 16 county elk zone by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was a first step to establishing a local elk population. Once established, the intent is to provide increased opportunities for both hunting and viewing of the magnificent creatures.
For those who look strictly on the economic side of things, it doesn’t take long to connect the dots. A solidly established population of elk equals opportunities for hunting (when it becomes legal) and public viewing. Those opportunities can eventually equal tourism dollars in McCreary County.
For those who enjoy hunting, it also doesn’t take long to connect the dots. The experience of elk hunting has been described by some as the thrill of a lifetime. The magnificent creatures, with their bugling cries, are unmatched here in our local forests. For the many hunters in McCreary County and beyond, the possibility of bagging a bull elk in McCreary County at some point in the future must rank high on their “wish” list.
But what about the other folks? The ones who like to view, study, and learn about wildlife? The ones who just want to soak in the beauty of nature, appreciate it, and leave it alone?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely not against hunting. There’s way too much carnivore in me, and I definitely understand the skill, the thrill, and love of nature that beckons hunters to the wild.
But a few recent incidents and conversations with folks at Barren Fork, capped off by the illegal kill of an elk in another part of McCreary County, has me questioning if we might be ignoring the needs of the “viewers”-those who just want to get up close and personal with nature to appreciate and study it, undisturbed? Perhaps, we are slighting their needs as well as ignoring one of the most important aspects to living in a county that is nearly 80% federal Forest Service and/or National Park.
First, the Barren Fork dilemma. The Barren Fork road is a short road off of Hwy 27 leading to a cemetery, campground, fishing pond, handicapped walking trail, wooded trails, and horse trails. Easy access to public land. Perfect for wildlife viewing for both young and old, able bodied and handicapped. Bear, deer, turkey, rabbits, coyote, and more. The good thing is that people take advantage of the opportunity. They drive to the end of the road, turn around, and drive back. They walk the road. Many, if not most, drive and walk, hoping it’s their blessed day to see bear, wild turkey, deer, coyote or other critters along the way. They are seldom disappointed.
But recently, several of the Barren Fork “viewers of wildlife” gave a deep and collective sigh of disbelief when hunters or poachers apparently harvested some fairly tame deer roaming the area. Admittedly, there is a no hunting zone in the area to provide safety to those in the campground, but the zone is not nearly large enough to protect wildlife and encourage viewing. Therein lies the catch. Hunting has its place on the thousands of acres of local public land. For the most part, thousands of acres of public land are open to hunting, and that’s how it should be. However, maybe it is also time to allot some space just for the “viewers”, the ones who want to see nature up close and personal. Maybe it’s time to do something for the ones who want a place for their children and grandchildren to see nature in a different way-not just as harvest-but also as miracles of God and nature. Shouldn’t there be a time and a place just for that?
What does all of this have to do with the illegal kill of an elk? I once read that hunting is not just about killing, it is also about learning when to let live. Maybe if we set aside just a few scattered acres of easily accessible, local public land and value it strictly for the sake of viewing, appreciating, and learning when to let live, we will send a message. Maybe, we will finally send the message that viewing and appreciating wildlife and learning when to let live are more acceptable than poaching.