design timberland boots Hunters sound off on new Weyerhaeuser land

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Unlike Gray, however, many longtime local hunters who contacted The Daily News have decided to skip hunting this year because of the Weyerhaeuser permit. The Daily News asked to hear from hunters whose plans were changed by the company’s permit requirement, and 20 hunters responded.

“I am not hunting deer, elk or grouse for the first time in nearly 50 years,” Jerry Sessions of Castle Rock said in an email. “This is due to the fees charged for access to Weyerhaeuser and other private land.”

This is the first year that Weyerhaeuser has charged $150 for access to much of its land around Longview, including prime elk habitat. In one sign of its unpopularity, a Facebook page called “Sportsmen Not Buying Weyerhaeuser Permits” has more than 2,000 members.

Still, several hunters told the newspaper the fee was only one factor in their decision not to hunt this year. The spread of elk hoof disease and the related decline of the herd size were other oft cited factors. Several hunters said they felt slighted by a company they had worked for, while others complained that hunting will become unaffordable.

Gray, who used to live in Longview but now lives in Orting, Wash., didn’t know about the Weyerhaeuser permits until he came down here to hunt. “That was a shock,” he said, but he had drawn a cow elk permit on Weyerhaeuser land and had no choice if he wanted to hunt. “I was forced to buy a key,” and just happened to spot the bull instead of a cow.

Gray said he understands Weyerhaeuser’s problems with garbage dumping, which along with vandalism and theft are reasons the company cited in its decision to close gates.

“But I think the price is steep,” he said. “I don’t think we should pay more for a key than we do for a license,” which is $84.50 for deer and elk.

Those who pay the fee get a contract to sign, a key to designated access gates, a permit to hang on rear view mirrors and a map, which some hunters said had inaccuracies.

When Weyerhaeuser announced its access fee, Deney Flatz of Toutle was “totally peeved,” he said last week during a break from hunting near the Green River.

But, he added, “I would have been selling myself short if I didn’t fork out the $150. I love to hunt.”

An advantage for Flatz was he didn’t see nearly as many hunters in the Winston game unit, which is south of Mossyrock and Riffe Lake, as in years past. But he’s seen and heard of fewer elk, too, which he attributes to increased cow hunting in recent years and hoof rot. “The herd size is horribly decreased,” he said.

State biologists have not calculated elk losses from the disease, but other hunters agreed with Flatz.

“The local herd has been reduced by about 50 percent,” estimated Rodger Wallace of Toutle. “They can’t get around for food so they starve to death.”

Greg Libby of Longview said he would have purchased a permit if the elk population was like it was 20 years ago. “If I was seeing game, I’d do it,” Libby said. “But I’m not seeing any game.”

Neil Crawford of Longview also cited the poor condition of the herd as one reason for not buying a permit.

“Why would I continue to hunt and pay a fee when most of the animals have hoof rot, in my opinion coming from herbicides,” Crawford said.

Crawford pointed out that the five people in his hunting party would have had to pay a total of $750 for Weyerhaeuser permits. In years past, they have camped on state land but hunted on Weyerhaeuser land.

“The sad part is the economic drawback to the rest of the community,” Crawford said. “I would have bought hunting boots, food for camp and $500 in gas for my vehicle alone,” he said.

For Markus Urserth of Longview, poor behavior by hunters is still another deterrent for hunting.

“Hunting for me is almost like a religion,” Urseth said. “I go out there once a month to scout. People come out on opening day and ruin it for you,” such as by trespassing on private property or unsafe shooting.

Other hunters directed their anger at Weyerhaeuser’s profit motive.

“Since Weyerhaeuser has made it so expensive I have decided to not hunt elk this year,” Josh McDaniel of Ephrata said in an email. “I will not pay their fee for access because I will not contribute any money to help a company that is willing to take so much away from a community in the name of financial gain,” McDaniel said.

Several hunters said they were slighted because they had to pay the fee even though they or relatives worked for the company.

One of them, Darrell Gunter of Kalama, said, “I’m close to 80 and I couldn’t pack a deer out if I wanted to, but if I was still hunting I would not buy a permit.

“I like to go up in Weyerhaeuser land and get mushrooms and I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend $150 to pick mushrooms,” Gunter said.

Greg Hicks of Centralia said almost all of his family has worked for Weyerhaeuser and “took care of the land like it was our own,” helping the company by culling deer and elk that were eating trees. Hicks said he would have to buy one Weyerhaeuser permit for land in Cowlitz County and another permit for the Pe Ell area to hunt where he used to.

“I’m disgusted, pissed, angry and just plain hurt that Weyerhaeuser could do that,” Hicks said in an email. “We hunters are a dying breed because of greed, plain and simple. The old George Weyerhaeuser would never ever do this to his fellow man.”
design timberland boots Hunters sound off on new Weyerhaeuser land