Before we get into the next adventure, and all that it entails, I’d like to discuss a topic that I think is pretty crucial to the hunting industry as a whole.
Lately, I've seen several people update their profile pics with the new "PETA" filter, "shoot selfies, not animals", paired with a grip and grin of their latest kill. (They think they are really sticking it to PETA with a clever twist on “PETA’s” filter). I use quotes, because I'm not actually sure PETA initiated it. And while I applaud the fact that these individuals are standing up for what they believe in, I don’t think they have really thought it through. These posts are actually HURTING the industry. If PETA did create it, then they are succeeding in their mission. A recent Outdoor Life article put it this way:
I think it's important to remind people of the "why" behind what we do, not just post pictures of dead animals.
Hunting is not a right. It is a privilege. And if we don't steward it well, it's a privilege that will be taken away.
Society as a whole used to understand hunting. There was no explanation needed as to why we hunted. But as our world drifts further and further away from relying on hunting as a source of survival, our society is less accepting of our heritage and traditions. We must keep in mind that hunters only make up approximately 5.5% of U.S. citizens. hunters only make up approximately 5.5% of U.S. citizens.
Whatever we do to support hunting and conservation cannot
and should not encourage this attitude of "us versus them".
By sheer numbers, we won't win that game. We are all in this together.
People have changed the face of the earth forever. There's no way around it. Simply letting wildlife roam unmanaged is no longer an option. Their environment is affected by human presence. And it always will be. The only choice we have is to manage the wildlife populations.
In fact, the Bible tells us in Genesis chapter 1 that managing this earth, and the wildlife in it, is our responsibility.
The question is, what is the best way to go about it? Well, I’m glad you asked. Though some continents do it differently, the North American model for wildlife conservation has proven to be incredibly effective. the North American model for wildlife conservation has proven to be incredibly effective. (Let's be honest, my main reason for hunting is not because of conservation. But, it is an amazing byproduct.)
Here are the facts. In the early 1900’s in North America, stats showed that elk populations were down to about 41,000 and turkey were around 100,000. Similarly, in 1950 only 12,000 pronghorn remained. All of this was largely due to Westward Expansion, but something needed to be done. In 1900, the Lacey Act was passed, banning market hunting. In 1937, Hunters voted in favor of the Pittman-Robertson Act; an excise tax on the sale of all firearms and ammunition. This tax money goes directly to fund wildlife conservation, and since its inception has raised over $7 billion. Every year, hunters provide $185 million for conservation just through license fees.
Because of these efforts and others, elk populations have reached over 1 million, there are more than 7 million wild turkeys, and pronghorn are up to 1.1 million. This is a direct result of intervention by HUNTERS. Now, I’m not saying that every hunter is out there simply because it benefits conservation efforts. In fact, most probably aren’t. But, it is really good to know that the way we have managed wildlife for the last 100 years has caused them to thrive. There is no way around it. Hunting IS conservation.
And (just a cool side note), while they are thriving, we are able to make great use of this awesome, renewable resource. Every year, deer alone account for nearly 300 MILLION (!) pounds of meat that is harvested in the U.S. That’s 300 million pounds that the beef industry who is already tasked with feeding the world, doesn’t have to provide
All of that to say, that I deeply believe that hunting is a good thing. I think it’s good for society. I think it’s good for wildlife. I think it’s good for the environment.
I think hunting is necessary,
and the perception of hunting that we, as hunters,
portray to the rest of the world will make or break it.
Non-hunters don’t want to see your latest trophy. They don’t care how many inches your bull was, or how many pounds your grizzly weighed.
Non-hunters care about the story,
and whether or not you respected the animal.
They want to know if you ate it and enjoyed it. Flashing pictures on Facebook with your arms half covered in blood and an exuberant look on your face just doesn’t do it. Give them context.
Tell the story. Invite them into the adventure.
Whether you are a hunter, non-hunter, or anti-hunter, we can all agree that wildlife is important. And making sure that wildlife thrives is important. The only way this can be achieved is by working together. Let’s focus on what we can agree on, not what makes us different.
“Differences are okay. Division is not.” – Chip Brim