July 2017
From Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

Fake News is Not Just in Politics

All hunters should take the time to seek the truth before blindly following the crowd.

During the presidential election of 2016, the term "fake news" came to light. Now you see it everywhere from national to local news. If you think the news is rampant with fake news, just take a look at social media. Over the past several months, different stories concerning some of our regulations have spread like wildfire through social media. This fake news is easy to decipher if someone puts forth just the tiniest bit of effort. Unfortunately, that’s where the breakdown occurs. Here are just a few examples of what I’m talking about.

 

Raccoon Hunting Banned in Four Counties

This hoax was circulated throughout social media the first week of May 2017. The news article claimed, "Due to the raccoon population at a substantial decrease, the Alabama State Wildlife board has decided to ban raccoon hunting on private and public lands in the following counties: Randolph, Cleburne, Calhoun and Clay. This also will include a zoned section of the Talladega National Forest. Don’t forget to pick up your new issue of Outdoor Alabama for the 2017-18 game bag book or visit us online."

Let’s pick this apart statement by statement. Does anyone in Alabama think there is a raccoon decline? If so, just ride down any country road and count the number of raccoons that failed their test as a traffic officer. We (Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries) do not feel there is a raccoon decline in any county.

Next, what is the Alabama State Wildlife board? The Conservation Advisory Board makes recommendations to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources based on input from citizens in their respective districts. The CAB meets twice per year to make these recommendations. The final meeting was held March 4, 2017, and a quick review of the minutes will show nothing was discussed about closing the raccoon season in any county.

Finally, every hunter and fisherman in the state knows that seasons and bag limits are printed each year in the Alabama Hunting and Fishing Digest. Outdoor Alabama is the website of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The Alabama Hunting and Fishing Digest is a staple of every hunting and fishing camp throughout the state. This Digest has been utilized by hunters and fishermen for decades to keep in touch with all of the seasons and bag and creel limits for the state.

 

Spot Lighting Legalized for 2017-18 Season

This headline was circulated throughout social media the last week of April 2017, generating quite a few phone calls and emails to our division. Not only is this a detriment to the public trust resource we are charged with managing but it is also an incredible public safety issue. How could anyone actually believe this?

 

Deer Season Delayed Due to Drought

That was a good one generating tons of calls and emails last fall. For some reason, many hunters assumed that, because they didn’t have food plots to hunt opening day of gun season, the season would be postponed until there was adequate rainfall. I know y’all probably think I’m making some of these up, but I’m not. This actually happened last November.

 

Baiting Legalized Because of Drought.
Baiting Legalized for High Fences.
Baiting Legalized for Next Season.

The king of fake news topics has to be baiting. Numerous headlines and hoaxes are circulated each year. The three above are just a few of the most recent ones. Let’s look at the first one. Much like the other drought topic, how could anyone really believe this is true? Deer have evolved over generations to be able to handle a wide variety of climatic conditions like droughts or floods. More importantly, it is perfectly legal to supplemental feed 365 days per year. So, why would bait be made legal when supplemental feed is already legal?

The second headline unfortunately gains traction every year, mainly due to many people not understanding the legislative process. In both the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions, a baiting bill has passed the House of Representatives. This always generates quite a bit of chatter on social media with people thinking that is all that has to be completed for the act to become law.

This leads to the final headline. After the bill passes the House, it then moves to the Senate committee. If the bill receives a favorable report in the Senate committee, it will be addressed on the Senate floor. For the past two sessions, the House bill was amended in the Senate committee. The amended bill allowed baiting to occur only inside high fences.

During the 2016 session, the bill never reached the Senate floor for a vote and, therefore, died in the Senate. The same fate appears imminent for the Baiting Bill of 2017 with only a few days left in the session. However, stranger things have happened, so I’ve learned not to count on anything when legislation is concerned.

I want to take a minute to explain the legislative process further, using the Baiting Bill of 2017 as an example. It was introduced into the House and assigned to the Agriculture and Forestry Committee. It passed out of that committee and was placed on a calendar to be discussed and voted on by the entire body of the House. After much deliberation, the Baiting Bill passed the House floor. It was then sent to the Senate and placed in the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry committee.

The bill was amended and passed out of the Senate committee. It must now be placed on a calendar and voted on by the Senate body. If the bill passes the Senate, because it was amended, it would have to go back to the House for concurrence. If the House doesn’t approve the amendments, the bill will go to a conference committee to see if a consensus can be reached. It’s a long and arduous process.

 

The best advice I can give is not to believe everything your buddy tells you at the hunting camp or what you see on social media. Do a little research on your own before you blindly follow the crowd over the cliff. Using just a little common sense will go a long way. Visit our website, www.outdooralabama.com. I can assure you the correct information can be found there. If all else fails, call the Montgomery office at 334-242-3845. Someone there will be happy to answer your questions.

 

 

Chuck Sykes is director of the AlabamaDivision of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.