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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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The Roving Sportsman… Wildlife Heroes

Who are they? Where do they come from, and why do they truly become heroes? Well, they are all around us, and they have been there for decades, often laboring away and receiving no recognition for the good that they do. Yes, they are the unsung heroes that plod along, not seeking praise, just wanting

Who are they? Where do they come from, and why do they truly become heroes? Well, they are all around us, and they have been there for decades, often laboring away and receiving no recognition for the good that they do. Yes, they are the unsung heroes that plod along, not seeking praise, just wanting to make things better in the long haul for the wildlife around all of us — wanting to preserve and protect. Many of them are hunters, many are fishermen, but they are all outdoorsmen, and they all care deeply about the wildlife and the environment, which too few seem to pay attention to.

For quite some time now, sportsmen and women have been gladly paying a tax on the sporting equipment they purchase knowing all along that the tax they are paying is earmarked solely for state fish and wildlife agencies to use in their conservation efforts. The tax was implemented by the passage of the Pittman-Robertson Act and has provided millions of dollars since its inception. Those dollars that have been generated have been critical in the conservation of wildlife.

Many wildlife species, not just within our state, but also throughout the nation are at risk. At risk because of loss of habitat, at risk at times because of disease and sometimes at risk because of predation. For whatever the reason might be, birds and mammals of various kinds are in trouble. While the overall health and population numbers of most species are just fine, the concern is for those species that seem to be on the decline.

An unfortunate example of a bird that seems to be in trouble is our own state bird, the ruffed grouse. Their numbers have always been cyclical, with populations rising for a few years, and then slowly declining over a few years, only to repeat the cycle again and again. Alarmingly, however, their numbers have been in a slow and steady decline for some time now. In the state of Indiana, the reduction of their population has moved the state to consider placing their native ruffed grouse on the endangered list.

Recent information has been released by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stating that their population of moose throughout the state is in decline. Only a few years ago, the population was estimated to be 65,000 animals, and that number is now estimated to be 50,000. It appears that the reduction in numbers is due to a large population of winter ticks. Some of these moose have been observed with literally thousands of ticks covering them, slowly draining all of the life’s blood right out of them — what a horrible death.

Obviously, a single caring sportsman or group of sportsmen can do little to combat these problems, and that is where state agencies come in. Through studies and research, hopefully, the answers that will reverse these downward trends will come to light.

Meanwhile, dedicated hunters and fishermen continue to do what they can to improve the habitat, work with fellow sportsmen to introduce both youths and adults to their sport, and educate folks along the way to the importance of wildlife and its conservation. So, these “unsung” heroes of wildlife come from all walks of life — from the individual who gladly pays an added tax on his sporting equipment to the person who spends untold hours planting trees and shrubs to improve the habitat for all wildlife to the professional wildlife biologists and state employees who work diligently to solve the mysteries of the problems that various species of wildlife face.

Yet, outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen face an increasing amount of criticism by those who don’t hunt or fish or simply don’t understand what is truly involved that creates such enthusiasm within the hunting and fishing fraternity. We must realize that most criticism is due to a lack of understanding and that we are the best candidates to educate those who lack a proper appreciation or understanding.

I would suggest that Steven Rinella, through his numerous books, lectures and his popular TV show, “Meateater,” is extremely well versed and provides an excellent portrayal of what a dedicated and respectful hunter is as he relates the interaction he has with the game that he hunts. Much of what he has to say can be related to someone who does not currently understand the important aspect hunting has on conservation.

Additionally, there is a new TV show entitled “Wildlife Heroes” that is hosted by renowned wildlife conservationist, Ivan Carter, which will showcase the positive impact of hunters’ contributions to conservation. Between the information provided on this new show and what Steven Rinella relates about his love of hunting, we can all glean great talking points to use in educating non-hunters about what true “wildlife heroes” are all about.

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