Part of a true sportsman’s enjoyment of any sport is knowing you have won or lost while playing by the rules.
Florida’s duck hunting rules say that you can shoot at a duck on the wing during season, if you have a license, training, the right weapon and ammunition, and you’re on permitted lands.
Hunting is prohibited on Manatee County preserves, except for Duette Preserve.
But a few hunters are pushing the boundaries of the law, shooting at birds from the perimeter of Perico Preserve, disturbing neighbors and people in the preserve.
People enjoying some quiet time in their backyards feel compelled to go indoors when they hear gunshots, not knowing what’s going on. After all, in an age of mass shootings, gunshots don’t necessarily indicate hunting.
Photographers capturing a rare shot of a roseate spoonbill lose it when shotguns are fired.
Children ask their parents what that loud noise is as they walk the trails of Perico – it’s hard to explain to a child that it’s gunfire, and we have to leave now, even though we just got here.
It’s not what county environmental officials intended when they spent taxpayer money to restore Perico in a way that would attract birds to nest.
It’s not what teachers told schoolchildren who helped plant native vegetation intended to provide habitat for birds.
It’s not what the volunteers who do cleanups in the preserve signed up for – stumbling over duck carcasses with the breast meat removed.
With Duette Preserve offering hunting, why would any hunter with a sense of fair play choose to disturb and possibly endanger people at Perico and the bordering neighborhoods?
To have an unfair edge in a game invalidates the game.
Cheating a bird that doesn’t understand boundary lines is unfair at best, and arguably indefensible.
But frightening people into running for their cars when they were looking forward to a few precious moments in nature is downright foul.
Play fair, or not at all.