From the LandTrust of Central North Carolina: Today, finding truly intact wild places proves a difficult task. Yet, the task of finding intact wild places that allow hunting access is even more of a challenge. As sportsmen and women, we cherish access to these wild places and strive to protect this access so that our children may one day walk in our footsteps.
Currently, sportsmen face limited choices to chase their passion unless they pursue game on family farms or are lucky enough to have good neighbors with available lands. Alternatively, they can travel to government-owned public land that allows hunting access, though at times these areas become crowded or may limited harvest opportunities. Others may seek to join an organized club where they share access with other members. But what if there was another option?
Consider your license dollars and taxes on gear you use in the field. Ultimately, by making those purchases you have in some way, contributed to land conservation. But is it benefiting you locally?
Conservation organizations comprised of sportsmen and women have long been the driving force in terms of land conservation, and in many instances, are the sole reason that the underdeveloped wild places are available to modern-day sportsmen. Our nation's conservation legacy began with sportsmen and those with that same passion remain today's most important conservation leaders.
These men and women had the foresight to realize that without action; land, habitat, wildlife, the wild places, would be lost.
Sportsmen possess a familiarity and fondness of natural habitats and the creatures contained within them that stems from early mornings and crisp fall afternoons spent afield. This intimate knowledge of the natural world allows a sportsman to recognize the important value their quarry provides to both their families and the intricate ecosystem that they inhabit.
Collectively, sportsmen provide for wild habitats and creatures within them more than any other demographic combined. Sportsmen need wild places; wild places need sportsmen.
The LandTrust for Central North Carolina is a locally based conservation organization with the ultimate goal of protecting these local wild places so that they remain intact for future generations to enjoy. To ensure that the long legacy of conservation among sportsmen in North Carolina is not lost, The LandTrust recently debuted its Sportsman Access Program (SAP).
This program fosters that relationship between sportsmen and conservation on a local level, while providing a direct local benefit for themselves and their communities.
The premise for SAP is simple, by joining The LandTrust as a "Sportsman Member" you have an opportunity to access over 3,000 acres of property that has been permanently conserved and managed predominantly for wildlife and natural resources. This program, similar to many state agencies permit draw system, provides an equal opportunity to access LandTrust owned properties.
Once enrolled, members have option to select various hunting blocks, approximately 200 acres each, for hunting related recreation. Various levels of memberships offer different levels of opportunity. Entry-level membership offers four lottery entries to access the property on the member's chosen dates.
Members receive six full days of access to their chosen location each time they are drawn. This translates to nearly 200 acres that members can invest time in, without fear of overcrowding or interrupted hunts. Currently SAP locations include LandTrust owned property in Davie, Rowan, and Montgomery counties.
Other benefits of becoming a sportsman member include opportunities to participate in conservation activities and events at no cost. Conservation activities range from hands-on wildlife planting instructional days, property boundary location and marking exercises, managing access to conserved property, and instruction on wildlife management strategies.
To further North Carolina's strong hunting heritage, members are encouraged to mentor youth on their permit hunts and in LandTrust sponsored activities.
Consistently, sportsmen and women support conservation in a big way, providing nearly 1.6 billion annually to conservation. Through SAP, The LandTrust allows members to support conservation at a local level and see the benefits of those efforts first hand. Sportsman membership funding is utilized solely for conservation within the 10-county region in central North Carolina to benefit wildlife and natural resources.
Additionally, The LandTrust utilizes funds associated with the sportsman program to purchase property then transfer those acres to other organizations such as The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (game lands program) and the United States Forest Service, Uwharrie National Forest. These transfers guarantee access to sportsmen in perpetuity.
To date, the SAP program is already seeing results. After a successful 2017 spring turkey season, sportsman members reported seeing birds nearly every time they stepped afield.
Member, Lloyd Rigdon harvested a mature gobbler on the SAP's Davie County property. "I was able to click the safety off each time I hunted", Lloyd reported. "Turkey hunting was as awesome as anywhere I've been blessed to chase them."
More importantly, members are using their draws to get our youth into the outdoors. Sportsman members Mike and Zac Morton were able to introduce new hunters to the field this spring.
"One of the nicest benefits of being drawn for a hunting opportunity on LandTrust property is that you are allowed take a kid hunting along with you. This spring, my son Zac and I were privileged to take several kids out on LandTrust property, turkey hunting." Mike commented. "These young hunters were fortunate to have access to these large tracts of property through the Sportsman's Access Program. We are grateful to the LandTrust for Central North Carolina for sharing their resources with the next generation of sportsmen".
It is opportunities like these that translate into continuing our hunting heritage, but they also pave the way for the next generation of conservationists.
This summer as you search for the perfect stand of hardwoods to chase whitetails or scout for a tucked away wetland to call in waterfowl on the wing, consider the other option, The LandTrust for Central North Carolina.
Much like the sportsmen before us who had the foresight to take action and protect their passion, as a sportsman member of the LandTrust, you can put your stamp on conservation at a local level, and enjoy accessing the wild natural areas we all call home.