In my previous blog I wrote about the threat to our hunting heritage by Anti-Hunters. That said, the threat can only be substantial if we allow it through hunter apathy. An old line from the Pogo comic strip comes to mind: “We’ve met the enemy and he is us.” The original NRA blog mentioned puts much of the responsibility to overcoming those threats on federal agencies, national sporting and conservation groups. That is partly correct. But we need to do our part.
So as hunters we should ask ourselves some serious questions. What do I hunt? Do I belong to conservation groups that support that species? Further, do I belong to sportsmen’s groups that stand up for my privileges? Am I involved? If we can’t answer those questions then yes, we may be that enemy we have met.
For too long, probably when they started decades ago, state game commissions were seen as guardians of all that was right about hunting. They took care of business on our behalf. We’d buy our license and go hunting. All was right with the world. But that was at a time when people were more connected to the land, more people hunted, and animal rights groups and anti-hunters were non-existent or weak. Times they are a-changing!
So how has all of this changed, and not for the better? Here’s my thoughts through experience related to problem with #7 on the NRA Blog, lack of opportunity. Opportunity is different from access. Access is about available land. Opportunity is about wild game populations on that land. Two different issues. Let’s look at an example with environmental groups as it relates to opportunity.
Bottom line: they don’t want any timber harvests on public lands. Period. Decades of science show that if you don’t manage the land, and one of those management tools is timber harvests, game populations will decline. So the environmentalists have become adept at blocking timber harvests on federal land through legal action. Once they win a court battle it becomes precedent which they use in other geographic areas. This has led to a cascading effect of regulations. Anti-Hunting and animal rights groups follow the same path. The most recent example is their efforts to block de-listing of wolves in the upper Midwest.
In our local area the Nantahala National Forest comprises one-quarter of the North Carolina Game Lands system, nearly 500,000 acres. Did you know that during the short three week mountain deer season there are no doe days in that area? Let that soak in. Deer populations are so low on ¼ of the Game Lands there is no doe harvest. Why? Because the land is not managed for wildlife. I talked with a rep from the U.S. Forest Service who told me that from the time of proposing a timber harvest for wildlife, to the time of implementation, it took about six years due to regulatory hurdles.
So what are hunters to do? There’s an old saying, “80% of life is just showing up.” We must get involved and there are many ways to do that at the local level. First, sign up for email newsletters and notifications from game departments and federal land managers. If they are holding meetings for public input that is where you will know about it first. Then attend those meetings. Provide written comments. I’ve attended Forest Service meetings where only a handful of hunters show up when hundreds stay home. Before you do go, arm yourself with the facts. This is where it takes time.
The old interweb of things is a great place to get information; scientific facts to share at public meetings. Animal rights groups hate facts. Simply because they don’t have any to support their position. Do your research on the internet (from reliable sources of course). Turn to your game department or favorite conservation group for that info. They both conduct scientific research. All of them have reams of data they have collected over the years and it is readily available. Have the facts in hand to support your position.
Get your hunting friends involved. Share this with them. Give them a ride to meetings. Let’s leave the court battles to the NRA, NSSF, Sportsmen’s Alliance and other national groups. We must get involved at the grassroots level. If not, one day we may find not only our privileges restricted (which some already are), but completely taken away.
SHOW UP! GET INVOLVED!