September 25, 2013 - One of my top three sources of stress relief is hunting.
Here's me with the two hens I shot in Brandon Township on Sept. 15, the opening day of turkey season. That's $30 in license fees right there. Now that hunting season's begun, readers are encouraged to send in photos of them with their game, whether they're trophies or not. At least bragging is still free. E-mail photos and relevant details to firstname.lastname@example.org. (click for larger version)
I find the entire process relaxing, enjoyable and immensely rewarding.
There's nothing like sitting in a blind on a crisp, clear autumn morning, waiting for sunrise and listening as nature begins to come alive for another day.
Words cannot begin to describe the thrill I feel when a buck or a doe or a wild turkey comes into range.
My heart is pounding so hard it feels like it's going to burst through my chest as I raise my gun or crossbow to take my prey.
The moment of truth is here and it's accompanied by an adrenaline rush like no other. It's all on me in that moment – no excuses. This is no time to over-think things like everything else in my life. This is the time to act. I pull the trigger and make it happen.
A feeling of complete and total satisfaction comes over me as I prepare the game for its final stop, which is either my freezer, my oven or my grill.
To hunt, kill and eat an animal is to become part of nature.
I'm not just some casual observer. I'm not somebody walking along a nature trail or snapping photos of wildlife. I'm an active participant in the natural world, taking my rightful place at the top of the food chain. It makes me feel alive.
This is what hunting means to me.
But now because of government – that which is most unnatural – I'm going to have to pay more for the experience I so dearly love beginning March 1, 2014.
The state is going to require me and every other hunter in Michigan to purchase a base license at a cost of $11. This will entitle us to hunt small game and purchase hunting licenses for other species.
I typically don't buy a small game license because I rarely engage in that type of hunting anymore.
But now, I'll be forced to spend $11 for the privilege, whether I use it or not, just so I can purchase my deer and turkey licenses. That's not fair. That's not right.
Even if you just want to buy a single deer license, you won't be able to do so without first shelling out $11 for this new base license. But wait, there's more.
Deer licenses are going up in price as well, from $15 to $20 each. So now, that single deer license will cost $31, instead of $15, when you add in the required base license.
For you waterfowl hunters, the cost will increase from $5 to $12 per license, not including the federal fee.
The only good news was that turkey licenses will remain at $15 each. But I'm sure that will eventually change.
I'm surprised they haven't started charging for that crossbow stamp, which is required, but free. I'm sure that will change as well because there are too many new crossbow hunters just waiting to have their pockets picked.
As far as I'm concerned I already do more than my fair share to help fund the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). And I don't mind a bit because this agency has done a tremendous amount of fine conservation work that benefits not just sportsmen, but all citizens.
I spend a ton of money every year for hunting licenses.
Between spring and fall turkey licenses and all the various deer licenses, I typically spend between $105 and $120 annually for a total of seven to eight licenses.
And that doesn't include all the state sales taxes I pay during hunting season for ammunition, arrows, assorted gear, food and beverages, plus the extra gasoline taxes I pay because I head out into the woods about three to five times a week on average.
However, thanks to these license increases, I'll be shelling out an additional $26 to $31, which is ridiculous.
The state claims the DNR will use all this extra money to enhance our hunting experience and make it "world class" – oh, how I loathe that term.
But frankly, my hunting experience is pretty darn good right now.
I don't need or want to pay more for it.
Almost every spring, I bag a Tom or Jake turkey and every fall, I shoot multiple turkeys and multiple deer.
No complaints here.
Life is good and my freezer is full.
These extra fees won't do a bit to enhance my hunting experience.
All they'll do is make me a little poorer, which is ultimately what government does best.
To government, it's always open season on the taxpayers and there's no bag limit.
Much like smokers, hunters are being exploited by greedy government because our numbers are declining and the majority of people who don't engage in our activity could care less if we're forced to pay more.
Humans are at the top of the food chain in nature, but in government, taxpayers are always at the bottom.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.