In my youth, I would engage in arguments or justify my actions in ways that lack maturity and understanding. I would regurgitate things that I had observed others use to defend their actions and/or decisions. I would just take these arguments as truths, because it is what I had heard, from folks who may have been older than me, or seemed to have more in common with me than other folks. In the hunting realm, I am seeing this on a daily basis. Resistance to so many different notions and ideas that go against the grain or what we have heard from others that we may look up to, or that we hold in high regard. Look, there is nothing wrong with looking up to those who took the time to teach or mentor you. I get it, we put those individuals on a pedestal. It’s a common occurrence. But its starting to hurt us as a user group, way more than help us. Allow me to expand on the “truth” we have been told and we use to justify our actions in taking the life of an animal.
“If we do not hunt, the wildlife will populate at an unstable rate and then spread disease and die off. So, we help by keeping them in check.” This justification has played itself out. The examples of where this is legitimate is few and very far between. In fact, there are very few cases where overpopulation to the extent of disease is a thing. If it was, why are certain areas sterilizing deer to reduce the herd? Wouldn’t they rather just “Let nature take its course”? And rid themselves of the deer infestation with the mythical die off from the disease that allegedly is looming out there? The entire discussion is flawed and not one that is shared by many hunters, or biologist. I recognize that there are areas where this is a thing, (Connecticut, NJ, etc…), but not as widespread as one would believe after scouring social media. And it really is not a good conversation piece for those who do not hunt, or are opposed to hunting.
According to a 2011 National Survey by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 6% of the nation participate in hunting, and the largest majority that hunts were the 45-54 age class. 6 % of the nation is now estimated to be around 5% now. The contributor to that decline covers a few variables, with people “aging” out, lack of access for hunters, habitat degradation and fragmentation, and so on. Why does that matter? Because on the other end of the spectrum sits an estimated 5% who are severely opposed to hunting. And the 90% that is in between are being suited hard by those who oppose. We see it in the mis-information of land management. We see it in the advertisements and “documentaries”. And we also see it when a decision is made that is less than admirable for hunters. So why does this matter? Because many know that hunting is in fact a privilege.
So what am I saying? I am saying that we need to get away from the close-minded, finger-pointing, name-calling, middle finger in the air attitudes that cause the division. I am not bashing certain campaigns on social media over hunters (primarily huntresses/female hunters) being bullied. But we need to be bigger and rise above. We have many examples on how to do that. Engaging in the old banter and holding “the line” of mis-information and ignorance is harming us on so many levels. I am all for voicing opinions, or sticking to your beliefs. I have a blog. And anyone who knows me will tell you, I don’t shy away. However, I have been able to keep my mouth shut and my ears open in my older age. Voices like Shane Mahoney, Randy Newberg, Steven Rinella, Kip Adams, Lindsay Thomas, Craig Harper, and others are where we as hunters need to gather information to have actual intellectual conversations. We need to recognize where someone is coming from and then, in a respectful way, present our views on why we do what we do.
Unless you live under a rock, or just hate social interaction with fellow hunters, Steven Rinellas “Meat Eater” is a show that has done so many things to change the negative image of a hunter. Another excellent resource from Rinella and company is The MeatEater Podcast that comes out on a weekly basis. One of my all-time favorite podcast from Meat Eater is Episode 53, where they discuss the 5 talking points that we as hunters generally use and their overall effectiveness. To listen to the discussion (its pretty sweet and very informative) click the link above to give it a listen. They also discuss Pittman-Robertson, Dingle-Johnson, and other contributing factors to conservation in our country. They ranked them in order of effectiveness based off of the study, but instead of delving into each point, I am gonna go with my big 3. I am probably going to be way off of how they are categorized in the podcast, but I will go with what my thoughts are on the conversations we have.
1.) We care so much about the resource and being ethical that we follow rules and guidelines while buying license and taking classes to be certified to pursue game. Many folks who do not participate in the pursuit of wild animals realize what all goes into being legal. In NC, after a certain birthdate, you have to take Hunters Safety. If you buy a license as a non-resident you must have your Hunters Safety Certification. We follow ethical pursuit of the game out of respect for the animal. Some folks take it a step further and restrict the equipment they use, or the age of the animal they are after.
2.) We pay an excise tax from Pittman-Robertson. The tax came from a time when we had NOTHING and we opted to take the burden on. It’s no secret the US was in bad shape in the 1930’s. even with all the financial burdens, even with the lack of food, jobs, etc… a group of folks told FDR they would bear the burden of restoring wildlife and wild places by placing a tax on themselves. Our predecessors asked for a tax on themselves to restore what had been wrecked…. Let that sink in. How many of you just jump at the idea of additional taxes? We went to war in 1776 for a 2% increase on tea. Our conversation forefathers had an 11% tax to restore wildlife and habitat degradation. In 1999 other user groups were asked to do the same through the Conservation Reinvestment Act. Introduced on February 10, 1999 the CRA would have a tax on other outdoor equipment similar to the Pittman-Robertson or Dangle-Johnson. The bill passed the House on May 11, 2000 and went to the Senate. It died there due to groups claiming that their users “paid too many taxes already”. Others had the opportunity and chose not to.
3.) We use the meat harvested to sustain ourselves and our families. The meals provided are the healthiest forms of protein we can harvest. And for those who do not enjoy the taste of wild game (weirdos) there are many food banks who will take that meat and give it to those in need. Many conservation organizations, hunter organizations and farmer groups work together to provide for the less fortunate in their communities. Our primal call as hunters is to be a provider.
In closing, I would like for you to read and take to heart the words of renowned conservationist and one of my heroes Shane Mahoney. “Wildlife and wild places no longer exist by accident or without the intervention of those that truly and deeply care.” This is a talking point. This is what is constantly left out of the discussion.
Get in the Arena.