We all know the stereotype of hunters as brutal rednecks out to kill off all of Earth’s creatures for nothing more than blood sport. You don’t have to look far to find an activist proclaiming that to save the world, we should end all hunting. This is far from the truth. Hunters and hunting organizations are leaders in habitat and species conservation, and there is good reason for this: We need animals to hunt. That’s a pretty critical part of the whole deal. We could strut through the field on a nice armed hike with our dogs in tow, but somehow it feels like that would be pretty anticlimactic.
Also, people overlook it occasionally, but our hunting does serve a critical purpose in many ecosystems. Natural predators are not as prevalent in many habitats. The reason for this is that civilized society has decided that many of these guys are big, intrusive and somewhat intimidating. People find it majestic to pass a deer in the woods or watch a flock land on the crystal surface of a pond, but don’t so much enjoy having a bear invade their campsite or meeting a coyote on a walk around the marsh. A lack of predators means an overpopulation of prey, which seems like a mild problem until you’re fighting a doe for a head of lettuce at the grocery store, or plowing into a buck on Main Street. Not to mention the negative effects this has on the species affected by overpopulation. Malnourishment, reduced fertility and damaged ecosystems are all the result of too many animals to feed in one location. Enter hunters. Our sport can help keep numbers in check and encourage the health of the population and environment.
Additionally, we’re the first line of defense to know a species may be in trouble. Ok, there may be some ecologists and environmental scientists dedicated to a species that notice a trend quicker, but who better than a hunter to sound the alarm that a population is waning? We tell everyone that will listen whether we’ve not seen a duck all season or if there were so many pheasants we thought we’d died and gone to upland Heaven. A dissatisfied hunter is often the first sign of a distressed species.
All of this said there is always more we can do to ensure species and habitat conservation, and therefore the proliferation of our sport, both in the survival of the species we wish to hunt and to protect against anti-hunting legislation. As a community of hunters, the more we can do to prove our worth in the conservation world, the more positive the public view will be of our right to hunt. Here are some simple things you can do to help ensure Americans will be hunting for generations to come:
Hunt with a Dog: We admit, this one is a given and you’re already doing it, but it is the most fun way to aid in conservation, so we thought it deserved to be mentioned. Hunting with a trained gun dog increases your chances of finding your downed game. This means less downed birds will get overlooked, making it easier for you to adhere to bag limits as well as increasing the possibility that you get to take home every bird you down instead of having to count a miss in your bag limit.
Obey Limits and Seasons: We will not sit here and claim to understand everything the government does. Some of these laws and regulations can be annoying, limiting and just plain nonsensical, but many are put into place based on the best information agencies have available. Limits and seasons, for example, are enforced based on the natural patterns of the species in question. They are centered on mating periods, peak population times, migrations and a number of other factors. Sure, you taking one extra bird a season is not going to have a huge impact on the Bob White Quail population, but all of us bagging an extra one every year very well could. By the same token, one person hunting one day outside of season is unlikely to permanently affect the mating patterns of the wood duck, but all of us out in the field whenever we feel the need for some duck marsala could. We admit it’s possible that it would have no impact at all, but if we do not adhere to Wildlife Agency’s legislation, we will be on our own if a species does become endangered. We have a saying around here “If it flies, it dies” which we think of as a pretty good rule of thumb, but it is necessary that it exist before it has any chance of flying. Limits and seasons are put into place to help ensure this happens. Plus, there’s nothing better than the excitement of opening day. It’s more than worth the wait and restraint.
Involve the Kids: A major reason for working so hard to conserve our sport is so our kids can enjoy it, so why not bring them into conservation projects? We know the excitement of taking them into the field for the first time, but it can sometimes be overlooked to teach them that these animals and areas are not never-ending resources without the proper care and consideration. Find local conservation projects to get them in on. We suggest checking with organizations such as Duck’s Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Delta Waterfowl, Ruffed Grouse Society or any of our other Outreach Partners for projects in your area. Not only will your kids have a great time, but the knowledge and skills they acquire will be able to be passed onto future generations so our sport will be in good hands long after we’re gone.
Tell People About What You’re Doing: We never hesitate to tell people about what a great day we had in the field, how many retrieves our dog nailed, how many birds we bagged, etc. but we may not always think to talk about the controlled burn we helped with, the 4H class we talked to about responsible hunting or that irrigation project we’re letting the state use part of our land to execute. We should though. Protecting our future totally constitutes bragging rights, and you should get to be in the spotlight for that for a moment. Plus, you may inspire other people to do more for conservation or change some people’s minds about the “Animal Enemy Hunter” stereotype. Tell your friends, your state agencies, Facebook…heck, tell us and you might be able to receive up to $5,000 for help with your project through the SportDOG Brand Conservation Fund Grant Program. However you choose to get the message out let people know what you’re doing.
Share your conservation tips or projects with us by commenting here, or posting to our Facebook or Twitter pages. Happy hunting to everyone!