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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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The Right to Hunt

March 19, 2010 - 6:00 AM | by: Douglas Kennedy

Turkey season opened in South Carolina this week, and like years past James Earl Kennamer, bagged a bird the first day. “Hunting is part of my life,” he said, as he waited for a flock early Monday in Estill. “It’s my touch to nature.” But these days when Kennamer straps on his cammo pants and loads his double-barreled Zoli 12 gauge, he can’t help but think of all of hunting’s regulations and limits, and he fears for the future.

“I’m worried about having legislation passed by different entities that want to stop hunting,” Kennamer said as he walked through the swampy woods of the 950 acre Woodstock Plantation, about 40 miles north of Savannah Georgia. “I’m worried they will one day get rid of hunting altogether.”

The lifelong hunter now supports a ballot initiative in South Carolina to change the state constitution and give hunters a permanent “right to hunt.” Kennamer says “It will keep local entities from passing legislation that would stop us from having a place to go hunt.”

That’s exactly what animal rights groups say is the problem with the initiative. “We think there are so many better ways to enjoy nature than killing a piece of it, “ said Ryan Huling a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the main opposition to the initiative in South Carolina. “PETA as an organization exists to remind people that there’s really no difference in abusing cats and dogs to abusing deer and fish. These animals all feel pain in exactly the same way.”

It’s that kind of sentiment from PETA and other similar groups that have recently sent hunters to collect signatures all across the country.

In the last 15 years, “right to hunt” measures have passed in 9 states including Alabama, Minnesota, North Dakota, Virginia, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Montana, Georgia, and Oklahoma (Vermont declared hunting a right in 1777).

PETA has opposed every single one. “If we’re going to have the right to hunt and fish,” said Huling. “why not have the right to shop and golf? We’re talking about making things that are legal, extra legal for no apparent reason.”

Huling predicts these initiatives will only lead to frivolous lawsuits in the future. “If hunters are going to open the flood gates like this, you’re going to see them demanding longer hunting seasons, larger bag counts, lower age limits. There’s really no end to this.”

Kennamer calls that “ridiculous,” stating hunters have a vested in interest in small bag counts and age limits. “We want hunting to be around forever, that’s all.”

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