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Going Nuts In Rural New York

Going Nuts In Rural New York

The squirrels in my little spot of central Virginia have been enjoying an incredibly mild winter this year. They’ve been chasing each other through the yard, scampering up and around the weathered locust trees and the massive trunk of the black walnut tree near the chicken coop. My yard is full of acorn-sized divots where the furry little critters have been digging up the acorns and nuts they stored back in the fall. And I’ve taken to sitting on the back porch with an air rifle so I can take out a few of the fuzzy menaces before my garden gets planted. 

Up in Brockport, N.Y., this is the time of year when the locals put on the “Squirrel Slam,” a contest that gives the community a chance to come together and local hunters a chance to win some money if they turn in the most squirrel by weight (New York’s squirrel season caps the daily limit of squirrels at six). Hundreds of men, women and kids take to the fields and woods of western New York to go after their elusive prey, with the money raised from entry fees, raffle tickets and the like going to the local Elks Lodge, which in turn disperses the money to local non-profit programs. 

And yes, someone has a problem with this.Hundreds of men, women and kids take to the fields and woods of western New York to go after their elusive prey …

The someone in this case is a woman named Lauren Sheive, who’s filed a lawsuit seeking to stop future Squirrel Slams from taking place. The New York Times reports that Sheive’s lawsuit claims the hunt is taking place without having undertaken a review of the potential environmental impacts. The fact that this hunt has been taking place for 10 years without putting a noticeable dent in the local squirrel population would seem to undercut Sheive’s concerns, but the lawsuit is still moving forward. In an affidavit, Sheive argues, “Since it’s baby time, the moms will be larger and fatter,” and thus preferred targets in the weight-based contest. 

Unfortunately for Sheive, basic biology refutes her claims. Squirrels mate in the spring and summer, not in the winter. And with a 44-day gestation period, a hunt in late February isn’t going to target, intentionally or otherwise, squirrels about to give birth. Still, “they’re murdering pregnant squirrels!!” is the kind of emotionally wrought argument that anti-hunters love to make—short on facts and long on “feels,” designed to appeal to non-hunters while demonizing the millions of men and women who do, in fact, love spending time in the fields and woods.

In Brockport, The New York Times spoke to veterinary tech and self-proclaimed pet lover Amethyst McCracken, who also supports the Squirrel Slam. She told the reporter about “squirrels the size of cats” in rural New York, pests that “do damage. They cause accidents. They chew through power cords. They go through drains.” In the Squirrel Slam, these pests become ingredients for stews or meat pies, while the tails end up as parts of fishing lures. None of that matters to those who hate hunting, of course. For them, there will never be a good enough reason to hunt; whether it’s for conservation, food, pest management, or simply because it’s fun. Not only is it an opportunity to get together as a community for fellowship and a good cause, but it’s a fantastic excuse to spend some time in the great outdoors enjoying all that hunting has to offer.

For millions of American hunters, however, the Squirrel Slam probably sounds pretty amazing. Not only is it an opportunity to get together as a community for fellowship and a good cause, but it’s a fantastic excuse to spend some time in the great outdoors enjoying all that hunting has to offer. Hunting is conservation. Hunters provide millions of dollars a year in taxes that help support our nation’s wild spaces, and hunting even provides a connection between the generations of humankind that have come before us. And hunting is also just plain fun. There are millions of people who can’t wait to climb into their tree stand for the first day of deer season, who will save up for years in order to go on a guided hunt in an exotic location, or who will hunt every day that there’s a season simply because they love it. It’s part of who they are, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

I say this not because you, the reader, need to be reminded of it, but because the proceeds from the Squirrel Slam used to benefit a local fire department in western New York. But according to the Times, the Holley Fire Department isn’t involved this year. “People in New York City don’t like that we hunt up here,” Fire Chief Kevin Dann told the Times. Chief Dann is right, for the most part (there are, in fact, plenty of people in New York City who are either indifferent to or are supportive of hunting), but why does he care what people in New York City think of what they do in Orleans County anyway? If Dann likes to hunt, I wish he’d proclaim it loud and proud. There’s no reason to be ashamed of hunting, but it would be a shame to fall silent when your friends, family and neighbors are being vilified by animal rights activists outraged over a charity squirrel hunt.

These radicals want hunters all across the country to change their way of life. Hunters should stick to their guns and celebrate their way of life instead.   

Cam Edwards is the host of “Cam & Co.,” which airs live 2-5 p.m. EST on NRATV and midnight EST on SiriusXM Patriot 125. He lives with his family on a small farm near Farmville, Va. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @camedwards.