For those of us who grew up in the outdoors hunting and fishing, the need to articulate and justify our drive to hunt can often be called into question. Some would argue that hunting today is just a cultural thing, that most folks hunt only because their father, grandfather, or any number of past friends and relations have done so.
That is certainly true in many cases, most all good hunters I personally know had a mentor in earlier life to show them the ropes.
In an effort to dispel some misconceptions surrounding humans’ long history of harvesting game, let’s take a look at both the good and the not so good of hunting.
Hunters are conservationists
Consider this, in most instances our society today would have never existed had it not been for hunting. It has been at the core of survival and existence for Native Americans, European explorers, mountain men, and settlers in addition to establishing towns and communities that likely includes the very ground your home is sitting on right now.
If you consume meat, carry a leather hand bag, sit on a leather sofa, or wear leather shoes, you are utilizing a product that at one time was a living, breathing creature. In other words, don’t be too quick to pass judgement. Hunting is and always will be in our blood, passed down from generations and centuries before us.
If we look back at the early market hunting days of the 19th and early 20th century, we can see how over-hunting caused huge losses of wildlife populations. The good news is that conservationists (hunters) saw the need to manage game populations and enacted laws that are today responsible for the greatest success story in wildlife conservation ever known.
In the early 1900s, many wild game populations were near extinction. By contrast, take a look at the following numbers provided by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
- Whitetail Deer: only 500,000 remained in North America, today there are over 30 million
- Pronghorn: only 13,000 remained in North America, today over 1 million
- Elk: only 41,000 remained in North America, today there are over 1 million
- Wild Ducks: near extinction in many parts of North America, today over 40 million
- Wild Turkeys: only 100,000 remained in North America, today there are over 6 million
These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg and only a small example of collaborative efforts. Theses efforts were carried out by hunters, conservation groups, and wildlife agencies–mostly through hunting dollars and are part of the success story for wild populations.
Do not think for a minute that efforts of these groups only benefit game populations. Quite the contrary. Habitat conservation and preservation not only benefit game animals, but by association non-game species as well.
My point, hunters are the primary force behind the revenue that goes into conservation and wildlife management programs via license fees and volunteer programs such as Ducks Unlimited or the Mule Deer Foundation to mention but a couple.
Poachers are not hunters:
Want to worry with the morality of hunting? In reality you should worry with the impacts of serious poaching (driven by the demand for ivory, rhino horn and other animal products in the Asian markets, mostly China).
Climate change, and habitat destruction that we are seeing today stands to be catastrophic worldwide basis, not just for wildlife, but us humans as well.
The slob hunter, who in fact is no hunter at all and the one that gives hunting a bad name, are those that willfully commit game violations at every turn. They are indifferent to the rules of fair chase and parade their kill around with little consideration for the animal or those who find such displays offensive.
These are the culprits that give legal and ethical hunters a bad name.
Although there will always be those that will never support or agree with hunting, as a general rule most folks, even though not hunters themselves, understand that regulated hunting is in fact necessary for the long-term survival of many species.
Again, quoting some statistics provided by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in relation to funding for wildlife conservation:
- Through state licenses and fees, hunters pay $796 million a year for conservation programs.
- Through donations to wildlife conservation organizations, hunters graciously add $440 million a year to wildlife management efforts.
- In 1937, hunters actually requested an 11% tax on guns, ammo, bows and arrows to help fund conservation.
- That tax generates $371 million a year for conservation.
- All-together, hunters pay more than $1.6 billion a year for conservation programs. No one gives more than hunters!
- Hunting funds conservation AND the economy, generating $38 billion a year in retail spending.
Bottom line, humans have hunted since the beginning of time. Every culture has relied on hunting in one way or another for survival over the millennia.
Humans have forged a connection with wildlife and the lands that support them over countless centuries. As a conservation minded hunter, I have no intent of seeing wild populations, be it game or non-game, becoming extinct.
My drive to hunt has somewhat lessened as I have grown older. Today I can enjoy viewing or photographing wildlife as much as hunting.
But somewhere, deep inside, that fire and drive to hunt still exists. It was established thousands of years ago from those that came before me.
It will always be there, even in generations to come … and that’s ok.