Sunday, September 29, 2013 —
Mention the North Carolina economy and most folks rightly think of banking, agriculture and perhaps manufacturing. But wildlife sports are playing a growing role, according to a national survey released recently by the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission. And local hunting enthusiasts say Stanly County is no exception.
“Hunters and sportsmen in general contribute thousands of dol lars annually in Stanly County through excise taxes, license fees, state and federal stamps, hunting leases, etc.,” said Reggie Medlin, a certified Hunter Safety Instructor who just finished helping with a class at Albemarle’s Jesse F. Niven Center.
“Shooting sports enthusiasts also contribute. Many of the boat landings, public hunting lands, etc., are paid for by these same tax dollars.”
According to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, some $3.3 billion was spent on these activities in North Carolina in 2011, including $1.5 billion on fishing and $525 million on hunting. Some 335,000 people ages 16 and older — 77 percent of them North Carolina residents — hunted in the Tar Heel state that year.
While local spending totals were not available, Stanly ranks 34th of North Carolina’s 100 counties in terms of numbers of hunters and anglers, and license sales have been on the rise for at least the past three years, according to Harvey White with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. He said 7,071 people in Stanly County have combination hunting and fishing licenses; another 5,804 are licensed to hunt and 528 have fishing licenses.
Brian Hinson, athletics program supervisor with Albemarle Parks and Recreation, said he believes more local people are hunting with kids getting involved at younger ages, thanks in part to area schools starting marksmanship teams. He offers the Hunter Education Course that he and Medlin taught (Sept. 28-Oct. 1) twice a year. The 10-hour course, offered frequently throughout the state, is a prerequisite for first-time hunting license buyers.
Hinson also said he is seeing an increase in bow hunting now that it’s allowed on Sundays and especially since crossbows are now legal for general use. Some 111 deer were killed with crossbows in Stanly County last year, up from 79 the year before. He said many of the folks he sees coming to classes make hunting a family activity.
Shea Morton, 39, of Oakboro grew up hunting and can’t imagine life without it.
“It’s fun. It gives you an opportunity to get away from the stresses of everyday life. You go sit in the woods, with just you and nature and get away from all the commotion for a couple of hours,” he said.
“That’s how I was raised.”
He’s also drawn to the challenge of stealthiness that deer hunting requires.
“Being able to not be seen, have them not smell you, and getting close enough to take that shot, there’s a competitiveness in that.”
It’s that mix of fun and discipline that he is enjoying passing down to his twin sons, Elijah and Shaphan, who received shotguns for their eighth birthday in May.
“It’s guy time, time for me and them to get in the woods together,” he said.
“It’s about teaching them to be quiet and still, to have patience. That’s a big thing.”
He said hunting helps instill responsibility, especially as the boys learn safety procedures — everything from wearing fall protection in the deer stand to safely carrying a weapon and knowing their surroundings before they shoot. He said even though they aren’t yet strong enough to use a bow, there’s plenty to learn.
Elijah was with his dad the day after Thanksgiving last year when Morton harvested a nine-point, 150-pound buck. Both boys were with him a couple of weeks ago when he shot a doe.
“Now both of them are really hooked,” said Morton, who also enjoys dove hunting and duck hunting whenever he’s off from his job at the Charlotte Fire Department.
Another of the lessons he’s passing down to his boys is stewardship, taking care of the family land they hunt on and dressing and using the animals they kill.
“Since last November, we’ve bought very minimal hamburger meat and no breakfast sausage. I killed two last year, so it has helped with our grocery bill,” Morton said.
Deer harvest has averaged 2,034 per year in Stanly County over the past three years, according to the NCWRC.
Medlin said he’s glad to see the sport growing and enjoys his educator role.
“This affords me an opportunity to contribute in a small way to helping people of all ages to become responsible, ethical, environmentally conscious hunters, and to hopefully teach them how to safely handle firearms,” he said.
Archery season for local deer hunters continues until Nov. 1. Muzzleloader season runs Nov. 2-15, followed by gun either-sex season from Nov. 16-Jan. 1. To find out more about hunting and how to become a licensed hunter, log onto the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission website at www.ncwildlife.org.
Luanne Williams is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press