One of the presentations I was asked to make at the Conservation Congress was to address the image and general public’s acceptance of hunting as a form of sustainable use. This is a bullet point outline of that presentation, which readers may find of interest.
Hunting needs to be seen as a good thing. The public perception can affect the license we are given by society to do what we do and that is so very dear to us. What follows are good things about hunting that are supported by the facts. If you think about it, they make simple, common sense; so make them known.
1. Hunters are naturalists, passionate about nature, in tune, in touch, in love. Fact: The fact is that most surveys confirm that hunters spend more time in the woods than any other group in society. This is true despite hunting seasons being shortened because of excess demand, and even though others are not bound by season dates. Traditional sportsmen are the real outdoorsmen.
2. Hunters are infatuated with the game they pursue. Fact: No one pays more or gives more to wildlife. Sportsmen contribute more than all others combined, including for non-game animals.
3. Hunters are the stewards, stakeholders and gamekeepers of wildlife and wild places. Fact: It only makes sense; the restoration and abundance of “game animals” is absolute proof.
4. Conservation Ethic: North American, and particularly American hunters, are known for the conservation ethic they hold. North America should be known for its conservation success and sportsmen’s conservation ethic as much as for democracy. It is our signature achievement. American sportsmen and women have led the way.
5. Role in the North American
Model: The sportsmen and women have been the core of the model, the most renowned model in the history of the world.
6. Land Ethic: Who after all fathered the land ethic? Aldo Leopold, the “father of modern wildlife management” and a devoted bow hunter ‘til the end. The Sand County Almanac was about his hunting camp.
7. Minority: This is good and bad. Since when are minorities to be mistreated in North America? Hunters should be afforded protection, not treated prejudicially. Regardless, there are 70-80 million US hunters and fishermen who have hunted and fished over a period of three to five years. When surveyed, those participants consider themselves sportsmen, hunters and anglers. In the US, 147 million living people have hunted or fished in their lives. Such numbers call for respect, for recognition, and for fair treatment. Don’t cower.
8. Morality: This is about why we hunt, aside from the conservation service it provides. Be able to describe the indescribable. Hunting is a relationship with nature. It is natural; it is fun; it is self-discovery and fulfillment. It naturally and necessarily awakens the senses. It completes the circle. We all hunt for our own reasons, but it is rewarding and fulfilling. There must be something to it or 70-80 million people would not do it. The history, the people and the following speaks for itself. So many other activities are only substitutes.
Hunting is the real thing. It is immoral to deprive individuals of something so important to their being.
9. Sportsmen were the very first environmentalists. Sportsmen know firsthand about air and water quality, habitat, scenic rivers, wetlands and biodiversity. They authored the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, National Environmental Policy Act and so much more. They were the first on watch and in touch. The environment is not abstract or academic to them.
10. It is “licensed and regulated.” This means it is sanctioned and supported. Hunters are caring, responsible, regulated and accountable.
11. It is healthy. Engaging in outdoor nature-focused activities helps prevent and correct physical, mental, emotional, educational and social issues for youth and adults alike. It is enriching.
12. It is ideal for family and friends to share, to bond and build relationships that are so very important in life.
Above all, don’t apologize. Be proud. Sportsmen and women pay more for the research, for the habitat, for the law enforcement, for the management, for the very infrastructure of governed conservation, than all others combined. More for non-game animals as well. You pay for everyone and are paid by no one. You are the givers and caretakers, not the takers.
No matter the reference or the measurement, you merit a place at the table. Sportsmen are the force.