Originally created 11/12/06

Non-hunters, anglers backed amendment



Despite questions over its actual impact, Georgia voters last week overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to protect the right to hunt and fish.

The idea, according to supporters, was to ward off future threats to our pastimes by ingraining them as rights protected by the document that guides our law.

When the ballots were counted, more than 1.6 million voters - 81.1 percent - voted yes, agreeing that "the taking of fish and wildlife shall be preserved for the people and shall be managed by law and regulation for the public good."

But what does that really mean?

I called Greg Goggans, a senator from Douglas, Ga., who sponsored the bill that put the question on the ballot in the first place.

Does it mean no one can ever ban or limit hunting or fishing?

Of course not.

"It's more of a broad statement of our heritage and what we believe," he said.

Admittedly, anything in the constitution is subject to interpretation and challenge, he said.

"We wanted to make sure we didn't wake up one day and realize we can't go get in a deer stand or take one of our sons or daughters fishing," he said. "You never know what the future might hold."

However, the affirmation by voters does tell us something important: the non-hunting and non-fishing public is very accepting and tolerant of both pastimes.

For that, Georgia is fortunate.

The constitutional amendment offers, perhaps, an added layer of protection, like adding a deadbolt to an existing door lock.

But one of the best ways to protect hunting and fishing is to protect its image with the non-hunting public.

To do that, our sportsmen (and women) need to remain sportsmen - and not slobs - because our behavior can have as much impact on opinions as anything we vote into our constitution.

SHRINKING THURMOND: For all the Lake Thurmond watchers out there, it was heartening to see our giant reservoir begin to refill last week.

In fact, water levels rose a whopping 7 inches in just a few days.

But don't get your hopes up. It's still bad and it's going to get worse.

Billy Birdwell, who manages public affairs for the Army Corps of Engineers told me on Friday that the reservoir - more than 8 feet below level now - will likely fall another 6 feet.

"We do anticipate it will continue to go down, and that we would hit Drought Level III," he said. "It will probably be sometime in January or early February."

Drought Level III is triggered when the lake falls to 316 feet above sea level, compared to a full pool of 330 feet above sea level.

SOLUNAR MYSTERY: The world has plenty of unsolved mysteries, such as the origins of Stonehenge.

Close to home, I've been contacted repeatedly about a mystery involving the solunar tables that many anglers and hunters swear will predict movement of game and fish.

The problem is that the tables published each day on The Augusta Chronicle's weather page don't coincide with the same tables we include on the Friday fishing page and Sunday's outdoors page.

I called the source of our weather page data, AccuWeather Inc., based in College Park, Pa., and was referred to a meteorologist named Gerald.

After checking around, he learned that AccuWeather buys the data from another source, solunar.com, which sells the information on a subscription basis - and slightly adjusts the times according to the reader's location in the U.S.

The other set of data, it turns out, comes from a book published annually by the same folks, but the times are keyed to a single location in the center of the U.S.

Mystery solved - sort of.

The tables still require further fine tuning to be truly precise.

For example, once you get the proper tables for Georgia for a given day, you'd still have to adjust them one minute plus or minus for each mile east or west of the geographic center of the state, which makes it even harder to determine the peak feeding times.

I still think the best times to hunt or fish are whenever you have the opportunity to go.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

THE VOTERS SPEAK

Constitutional amendment on Hunting & Fishing:


- Statewide: 81.1 percent (1,607,730 people) voted yes.


- Augusta: 76.87 percent (33,688 people) voted yes.


- Columbia County: 78.64 (23,826 people) voted yes.