Any hunter will tell you that it's increasingly difficult to find undeveloped land where game can be hunted. Business and residential development keeps sprawling and gobbling up what once was prime game habitat.
That means hunters who are used to going all day without seeing someone who's not in their party now must be alert for strangers who are sharing the woods and wetlands with them.
The old days of wide open spaces and sparsely populated woods aren't likely to return in Crow Wing County, not with a population that's expected to double in the next 20 years. Accordingly, hunting practices of the past have to change.
The privilege of allowing hunters to build permanent tree stands on public lands is one of those customs that might have made sense years ago but should now be eliminated. Crow Wing County commissioners Ed Larsen and Terry Sluss have proposed an ordinance prohibiting the permanent tree stands on county-managed public lands and the full board would be wise to adopt it.
The proliferation of permanent stands on public lands, particularly the large ones, is a problem on many levels:
-- It can create an eyesore for those who want to enjoy the beauty of a natural area.
-- Spikes and nails in trees that may be logged pose serious safety concerns.
-- Hunters who construct the permanent stands may develop a sense of ownership regarding a particular hunting spot.
There was probably a time, long ago, when a Brainerd resident might have considered building a tree house in north Brainerd's Gregory Park for his children to play in. Those days have long since passed. Gregory Park is a busy, urban park and no one would think of staking out a tree for their own personal use.
Banning permanent tree stands on public lands might be lamented as a regrettable sign of the times but it's not an unreasonable restriction to place on hunters. Cass County and the U.S. Forest Service already prohibit such stands.
Special provisions are made for handicapped hunters so the ordinance would not affect them. It might inconvenience some older hunters who can't carry a permanent stand but they often have friends or relatives who can assist them.
In today's relatively crowded public hunting areas the fact that a family has hunted out of a permanent tree stand for generations is not a justifiable rationale anymore.
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