Earlier this week, Columbia-Greene Media, Albany Times Union, and Nyup.com, ran stories about a squirrel hunt in Columbia County. It was in response to a letter from the NY Humane Association headquartered in Kingston, NY seeking to end the hunt. The planned hunt is the annual “Squirrel Scramble” sponsored by the Germantown Sportsmen’s Association.

The event’s flyer invites hunters licensed to pursue small game, to register, then tally no more than their legal limit for the day. Those who harvested the most or heaviest aggregate weight of game will receive a prize. More importantly, it directs all participants and their families will then safely share refreshments and fellowship. The $20 entrance fee pays for the refreshments and prizes.

The NY Humane Association said in a letter to the Germantown Sportsmen’s Association,

“No one is saying that squirrels are an endangered species, but killing in the name of fun and family bonding seems contradictory and lacking in respect for living beings and their place in nature, and squirrels have their place in nature like all wildlife.”

The letter went on to describe the hunt “…as a contest to wantonly destroy wildlife that either belongs to all of the people or none of us.”

Allegations that game harvested during the event is wantonly destroyed and wasted is refuted by the Germantown Sportsmen’s Association. In a prepared statement a spokesman for the Germantown Sportsmen’s Association said, “All harvested game not kept by the participants was saved for our annual game dinner as well as offered to local wildlife rehabilitator’s who use it to feed the birds of prey and animals who will be released into the wild so they will maintain their hunting instincts.”

So, according to organizers, all harvested game will be used for food and not wasted. It will either be consumed by the hunters who harvested it, prepared for the game club dinner, or donated to raptor rehabilitators.

What better use of the resource than feeding families or using it so that injured raptors can be fed their natural prey aiding their successful return to the wild.

This practice of sharing the harvest is nothing new for hunters and certainly not new for the Germantown Sportsmen’s Association. They participate in a venison donation program called, “Hunters for the Hungry.” It’s a program that donates harvested venison to local food pantries for distribution to those in need in the community.

Hunters are a generous lot. “The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry, reports that, thanks to hunters, an estimated 2.8 million pounds of game meat makes its way each year to food pantries, church kitchens and shelters and onto the plates of those in need.”

According to Peter Aldrich of “Hunt to Feed in Connecticut,” “Without venison, some of these organizations would not have protein, wouldn’t have meat, to give to those folks who are coming in.”

Gray, black, and red squirrels are species with an abundant population in NY. The limit of six per day for gray and black squirrels has been unchanged for many years. There is certainly no danger events like the Germantown Sportsmen’s Association’s “Squirrel Scramble” will have any negative impact on the population.

So, who and what is the Germantown Sportsmen’s Association and why are they holding this event? According to a released statement, “The Germantown Sportsmen’s Association was established over 40 years ago as a group of local sportsmen who were interested in hunting, fishing, archery, canoeing and outdoor sporting activities. We are a member of the Columbia County Sportsmen Federation and are active in many Germantown community events.”

They are a demonstrably benevolent local organization who sponsor all manner of events one would expect in a rural community. They support local members of the community who are sick or injured, sponsoring dinners and other events with all proceeds going to those in need. They even offer a scholarship for a graduating student who plans to study and enter the field of environmental conservation.

One member of the association is a renowned, award-winning hunter-conservationist. He is responsible for bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal stream restoration money and oversaw its use in remediation of waterways destroyed by hurricanes and floods. He is the driving force behind the club’s participation in “Healing Waters,” personally guiding our wounded veterans flyfishing on trout streams. Just one example of many in the association doing yeomen’s work to support the community.

The club also sponsors “Project Ringneck,” where veterans hunt and fish, plus actively participates in the extensive Columbia County Sportsmen’s Federation Youth Outdoor Education Program. The Youth Outdoor Education Program includes classes on environmental conservation, mentoring youth, kayak paddling trips, fishing, hunting, target shooting, plus many other conservation and education events.

That’s who’s sponsoring this event. They do not deserve to be demonized by false, inaccurate or inflammatory rhetoric. Organizers of the event say they have been met with death threats and “…members who on the flyer are identified as contacts have received many threatening and vulgar phone messages and emails at all hours of the day and night from all over the country. These messages and letters have indicated that they will be using the press, protesting and legislation to stop our event. While the Humane Association presents a number of their opinions as facts that are not accurate many of their supporters are using threats and bullying to express themselves.”

It’s time for common sense on the issue. Inviting hunters to come out in the doldrums of winter to hunt and share their harvest while safely having a social gathering is not evil in any way, and in fact needs to be encouraged.

The “Squirrel Scramble” is a homespun local event that includes people of all ages allowing members of the community to safely come together around the tradition of hunting as has been ongoing for centuries in the area.

This year, and this winter, has been a long one. Many have been shut in their homes. Some who are working work from home. Lots of kids have not attended school. That means no going out for recess, no physical education, no sports, no exercise, and no commiserating with friends in or out of doors. This event addresses all of those issues getting folks out for some needed outdoor exercise and socialization. It serves as a light at the end of the tunnel of what is turning out to be a long, dark, and particularly grim winter.

It’s not just about continuing our traditional hunting heritage. It celebrates community, fellowship, and positive social interaction at a time they’re so sorely missed during this difficult time.

Let’s support those in our midst like the Germantown Sportsmen’s Association who don’t just talk about making their community better, they take the initiative and do something about it. The “Squirrel Scramble” is just one example of that and it needs our support.

Happy Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping until next time.

You can share any comments with our sports desk at sports@registerstar.com

News and Notes

Germantown Sportsmen’s Club’s Squirrel Scramble, February 27: For more information on how to participate on the Germantown Sportsmen’s Association’s “Squirrel Scramble” you can find their flyer on their Facebook page.

Circle hook comments are due by March 8, 2021: If you want to register an opinion on the proposed inline circle hook requirement, you have until March 8th to comment. Comments can be sent via email to fw.marine@dec.ny.gov or by mail to:

Division of Marine Resources, 205 N. Belle Mead Rd. Suite 1, East Setauket, NY 11733. After reviewing public comments, DEC will be adopting and publishing a final regulation.

Remember to report poaching violations by calling 1-844-DEC-ECOS.

*If you have a fishing or hunting report, photo, or event you would like to be considered for publication, send it to: huntfishreport@gmail.com

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