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Sep 2, 2010 10:31 PM by Alison Haynes

States being asked for 'right-to-hunt' amendments

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Lifelong hunter Bill Haycraft of Kentucky
sees his treasured outdoors heritage under siege and in need of
constitutional protection from animal rights advocates.
He's one of many hunters backing a "right-to-hunt" amendment
that's expected to be on his state's 2012 ballot.
Kentucky is just the latest in a long line of states that have
passed or are considering right-to-hunt measures to head off a
feared hunting ban.
Animal erehts activists, however, say it's all unnecessary.
"It's a solution in search of a problem," said Michael
Markarian, chief operating officer for The Humane Society of the
United States. "These measures don't accomplish anything."
Hunting advocates in at least five states, responding to
pressure from outdoors enthusiasts like Haycraft and the gun lobby,
are pushing for constitutional protections for hunting. the
National Rifle Association wants to get the pre-emptive amendment
in place quickly, before animal rights groups can persuade a
majority of Americans that hunting is bad.
Arkansas, Arizona, South Carolina and Tennessee have
right-to-hunt referendums on the ballot this year, and Kentucky,
inspired by the other states, is poised to follow in 2012.
Such constitutional guarantees are already in place in Alabama,
Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, Vermont, Virginia
and Wisconsin, according to tl, National Conference of State
Legislatures.
All of those states, except Vermont, have adopted the
constitutional amendments over the past 15 years. Vermont's
amendment dates back to 1777.
Haycraft, president of the League of Kentucky Sportsmen, said he
learned to hunt from his father. He, in turn, introduced his own
son and later his grandson to the activity, stalking deer and other
game. To Haycraft, hunting is a family heritage, dating back
generations. He believes it's threatened by animal rights groups
that want to make shooting animals illegal.
"They have lots of money," said Haycraft, president of the
League of Kentucky Sportsmen. "They're highly educated. And if
they can swing it with the legislatures, they will do it."
Animals rights groups have pressed for restrictions on hunting
in several states, including Kentucky where they tried to stop bear
season from opening last year and in Minnesota this yewitwhere they
pushed to ban dove hunting.
The right-to-hunt measures would ensure that hunting could never
be outlawed without a statewide vote of the people.
"The threat is very real," said NRA spokesman Andrew
Arulanandam. "These folks want to make hunting a crime."
In Defense of Animals President Scotlund Haisley said NRA and
other pro-hunting groups are attempting "a backdoor approach"
that would "open the floodgates for more bloodshed, more poaching,
greater incidence of non-target species being trapped or snared."
"As compassion towards animals continues to grow in American
society, a greater sense of respect for wildlife and their
protection has become an increased focus," Haisley said. "Killing
wildlife for sport and in hopes of adding another mounted head on
the wall is a disgrace to that end."
The right-to-hunt amendments, which generally give citizens
"the right to hunt, fish and harvest acldlife" subject to
existing laws and regulations, are backed by a loose nationwide
alliance of hunting and gun advocacy groups.
"Every organization, both national and state, involved in
hunting rights is involved in pushing this, and the gun rights
lobby as a whole is in favor of it," said Alan Gottlieb, founder
of the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, Wash., which also
has signed on. "Protecting any form of gun rights is obviously in
our interest."
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he's confident the
Kentucky Legislature will put the proposed amendment on the ballot,
and it will be overwhelmingly approved by voters. Hunting and
fishing, he said, are by the far the most popular sports in
Kentucky.
Since the days of frontiersman Daniel Boone, said Stumbo,
Kentucky "has been the happy hunting ground," and he said
residents want to keep it that way.
The initiatives add an element that could booed Poter turnout.
However, Western Kentucky University political scientist Scott
Lasley said hunting has such bipartisan support that it wouldn't
serve as an effective wedge issue between conservatives and
liberals in the states where it's on the ballot.
Arulanandam said anti-hunting groups clearly don't yet have the
political influence to defeat the amendments or to ban hunting, but
that could change in the future.
"It's not a gamble we're willing to take at this point in
time," he said. "The reason we're pushing this is we've seen an
increase in the last decade or so of very well-funded efforts by
anti-hunting groups and extremists to ban hunting. They're using a
very smart approach to incrementally ban hunting."

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