Written By Bill Howard
Visiting the state of Michigan for work, I noticed something. Billboards, posters, and other markers are located everywhere promoting the outdoors. Not only are they promoting the outdoors, they are more specifically promoting hunting and fishing activities.
I knew Michigan had a strong heritage of living off the natural resources so-to-speak. The hunting is great there. The fishing is great there. Northern Michigan is as natural an area as you can find.
Tom Miranda, a renowned bowhunter from Michigan, grew up trapping animals for their fur and meat. While my friends and I used to patrol the ditches along the streets collecting glass soda bottles to return for deposits (yes, at one time sodas came in glass bottles and you could turn them back in to the stores for as much as a dime per bottle), Miranda was skinning and fleshing various species and selling their fur on the market.
Another well-known outdoorsman, Steve Rinella, also called Michigan home. Like Miranda, his passion consisted of trapping and hunting. His goal in life was to become a full time trapper. However as fur prices declined with both the advent of synthetic faux furs and a vocal portion of the population declaring trapping a heinous act against animals, he began to hunt more and eventually became an author, television personality and hunting heritage advocate.
So why bring this up about Michigan? Well, it seems Michigan embraces this heritage. They are not only proud of it, they promote it. This brought me to my next thought. Why doesn’t North Carolina embrace our hunting and fishing heritage?
Technically the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission does. That is their objective after all. It is there to protect our natural resources so that our generation and future generations can enjoy those resources through proper management. In the process they also teach how to be ethical in doing so, how to be safe when partaking in outdoors activities such as hunting and fishing, and promoting both the skills and growth in the sports.
But what about North Carolina in general?
Several years ago I had a conversation with someone at the tourism division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce. We were talking about the promotion of hunting and fishing in North Carolina through their Visit NC campaign.
They were interested in hiking, camping, and boating as they are all high on the reasons to for people to visit North Carolina. Fishing also make the top 50 but wasn’t nearly as high. Hunting was not listed as a top 50 reason and therefore was considered to not be worthy of any promotion.
I found that shocking. Not so much that hunting is not a top 50 reason to come to North Carolina, but the fact that it should be. Our hunting and fishing opportunities are highly overlooked and with a little promotion, North Carolina could become a top destination.
Our black bear population is a vital resource that borders world class for hunting opportunities. Our bears grow huge due to the food sources available and the lack of need to hibernate. In other words, they eat throughout the year. Our bears top lists in official scoring categories such as Boone and Crockett, Pope and Young and Safari Club International (SCI). They also top other record books that look at weight at the time of kill and by other means of hunting such as with dogs.
One of the most magnificent waterfowl in the world flocks to our eastern plains and coast, the tundra swan. With the birds wintering here, it is one of just a few states that allow the take of the huge white waterfowl. It should be on any bird hunters’ list of dream hunts and destinations.
While our whitetail deer do not grow to the sizes of premiere destinations such as Ohio, Iowa and Texas, the sheer numbers are hard to beat. We have one of the more liberal deer hunting quotas in the country with the ability to take as many deer as you want. A hunter that is looking for a good hunt and the ability to stock their freezer should have North Carolina at least on the radar for a destination for nothing else than the numbers of deer that will be seen and available.
I do think North Carolina has missed out on a hunting paradise destination, but maybe that is ok. We will just keep our little secret and enjoy what we know is available to us.
Editor’s Note: “Bill Howard Outdoors” is a new weekly series that will be published every Saturday in the new Outdoor Living feature section.