I recently sat in on a conservation meeting in a sportsmen’s lodge outside Concord, New Hampshire. The topic for discussion…
I recently sat in on a conservation meeting in a sportsmen’s lodge outside Concord, New Hampshire. The topic for discussion was the lack of camaraderie amongst sportsmen and women, and the toll this has taken on conservation and wildlife programs throughout the state and region. One man said his piece on what was wrong with the current state of hunting and trapping across America. “I’m going to say something that may offend some of you," he cautioned us, "but it needs to be said. Sportsmen groups are one of the most unorganized groups of people in the country.” There wasn’t a single rebuttal from anyone in attendance; everyone knew full well what he meant, and furthermore, what it means for the future of consumptive outdoor activities in the region and the country.
It’s a subject that not too many hunters and anglers recognize, or want to admit, but those of us in more “niche” activities like hound hunting and fur trapping know it all too well. Let’s face it, you may be a big-time duck hunter and passionate about your sport, but when a bill comes before your state legislature to restrict or ban bear hunting, are you as a duck hunter, going to take the time to write to your representative to save bear hunting when you know full well you’ll never hunt bear? I’m guessing the answer, nine times out of ten, would be “no”, and that's one of the reasons why consumptive outdoorsmen and women are constantly under scrutiny from anti-hunting and anti-consumptive organizations nationwide.
Decades ago this type of mindset was unheard of. If you hunted deer, chances were you also dropped a line in the creek for trout and trapped muskrats along the marshlands during duck season. In many states and provinces, this way of life still prevails as larger populations of rural folks hold tight to their outdoor self-reliant roots. But for many of us, the community of consumptive sportsmen has become fragmented. We are passionate about our own particular practices, but fail to recognize hunting, fishing and trapping as an all-encompassing benefit to conservation and outdoor recreation.
Divisions in the Ranks
Now I know there are plenty of you reading this and wondering what I’m talking about, thinking that it's only common sense to support all forms of hunting, trapping and angling. Unfortunately nowadays, your train of thought is in the minority, and this concept is seldom heard when the proverbial deer piss hits the fan.
Yes, we should support and commend one another for having the common sense to want this natural world managed and regulated as a resource for all consumptive practices. However, every state and province in North America has divisions within its hunting ranks. Many bird hunters don’t care for trappers; many deer hunters don’t care for hounds-men; many anglers don’t care for hunters. These divisions rise to the surface every fall, and sometimes disputes over wildlife management spill into clubs and departments, causing greater divides and offshoots.
When a bill or piece of legislation does come along threatening the current ways of hunting and trapping, it's usually only those whose hides get affected (pun intended) that spend time voicing opposition.
Meanwhile, the animal rights groups and “hands-off" environmentalists have a field day presenting themselves as the majority, when in reality this is clearly not the case.
Join Your Sportsmen's Group
So what exactly am I asking for? Am I seriously trying to convince every New Hampshire deer and pheasant hunter to show up at the next hearing on anti-trapping legislation? Well, frankly, in a perfect world that’s what I’d like to see, and I recall a time when that would not have been an outlandish request.
What I will realistically settle for is for all of you to join your local sportsmen’s group - not your local skeet club or shooting range, but your state organization dedicated to preserving hunting, fishing, and trapping for everyone. The Sportsmen’s Alliance for instance, is a national organization that champions such values. This group serves as a lookout to protect deer hunters and bass fishermen, as well as fur trappers, hound hunters, and turkey callers. While national groups like the Sportsmen's Alliance do an excellent job, we must also support one another at the state and regional levels. Almost every state and province has some kind of consumptive sportsmen’s group; Maine has SAM, New Hampshire has the NH Wildlife Federation, and so on from Vermont to California. These groups not only support all major forms of regulated hunting and fishing, but also serve as a bridge of unity between the different classes of these outdoor activities.
When each of you took your hunting or trapping education classes, you learned about concepts like carrying capacity, wildlife management and conservation. I can tell you the Primos hunting decal on the back of your F-250 doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t support the other aspects of conservation that go along with its meaning. It really doesn’t matter how much you spent on your duck blind, or which Pro-Staff you belong to - if you aren’t willing to recognize and support the other aspects of wildlife conservation, such as fur trapping and bear hunting, your Real-Tree camo pajamas are nothing more than a fashion statement. More than 90 million U.S. residents (16 years old and above) participated in some form of wildlife-related recreation in 2011. With numbers like this, it’s a downright embarrassment that we must constantly fight to keep trapping and hunting relevant today.
Deceitful Anti-Hunting Groups
Despite what anti-hunting activists may say or think, I know lack of support for these “niche” activities isn’t due to lack of individual sympathy for the cause, but rather a lack of motivation to see the fight through. This is where we all, as outdoorsmen and women, must stand together against those who wish to abolish all forms of hunting and fishing. If you don’t believe your brand of outdoor hunting could be targeted, take a look at the current headlines to get a snapshot of how anti-hunting groups deceitfully operate. They know how difficult it is to push a man off his stool. They know it's much easier to whittle away at each supporting leg of that stool when he’s not looking, and watch him fall on his ass in sheer shock and surprise!
Keep in mind these organizations don’t protest hunting and attempt law changes on principle. Their primary motivation is donations. Take a look at any of the anti-hunting groups like HSUS, PETA and Furbearer Defenders, and you’ll see their websites plastered with “donate-now” buttons. They parade state-to-state crying injustice, corruption and animal cruelty while soliciting for donations. Once the deed is done, and they’ve won the argument, they’re on to the next state to suck the life out of their outdoor conservation groups. The wildlife these groups claim to support end up suffering in their wake as they continue to follow the money. Its common knowledge that most of the people who speak against hunting at these state hearings are paid to be there – it’s much more motivating to “save the animals” when you’re collecting a large paycheck in the process. But instead of standing and fighting these anti-hunting groups, sportsmen are busy pushing their neighbors under the bus in the hope these groups will move on if trapping and bear hunting are banned. This is a huge mistake, as even the most basic research on these groups will show this is not their end game. Staten Island is already experimenting with controlling its deer population by castrating bucks rather than allowing hunting; it’s happening right in front of your eyes and I’m sorry to say the “Redneck pride” sticker on the back of your truck isn’t going to stop it.
It’s not all doom and gloom; there is a light at the end of this ever-growing tunnel. You can start by becoming an active member of your local sportsmen’s club and keeping an ear to the wall for anti-hunting and trapping legislation. Find out who your local district and state representatives are and let them know you are a hunter or trapper. Whether they’re Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, most representatives listen to what their constituents are saying. Sending a handwritten letter introducing yourself and your outdoor activities is a good start to breaking the ice before legislation is introduced. It doesn’t take a lot of time either - I work a full time job, maintain and run a pro-trapping website for free, and take an active role in my local conservation groups with time still left over to hunt and trap!
To summarize, whether you hunt to put venison in the freezer, fish for sport, bird hunt with dogs or set traps for natural fur garments, you are an integral part of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Your support is needed as our society is overcome by tablets, smart-phones, self-driving cars and Kardashians. Our self-reliant ways of life are ALL in jeopardy as habitat loss and out-of-touch citizens continue to constrain and restrict our activities. It’s time we start pushing back and regain our freedoms as fixtures of the natural world. United We Stand, Divided We All Fall.
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