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Friday, December 24, 2010

Will Market Hunting Make a Comeback?

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, December 24, 2010.)

If you think hunting is facing
serious challenges now, wait until
every deer is turned into dollars.
Did you know American sport hunters were the saviors of many species that were headed for extinction almost a hundred years ago? It’s true.

In those days whitetail deer were rare, partly because of market hunting. Wild turkeys were scarce except in isolated pockets. And market hunting forced passenger pigeons into extinction. Sport hunters saw other species also heading for disaster, and we spoke up.

We asked for hunting regulations. We promoted the idea that wildlife populations should be a public resource in every state. That became a core principle of wildlife management, and that’s when wildlife began to thrive.

Today, that principle is being challenged. A September 2010 article in Michigan Farm News outlined an idea to create a “licensed cadre of Elite/Master Hunters to sell wild Michigan venison commercially to restaurants, food distributors, grocery stores, individuals and other outlets.”

Yes, some people are saying that hunters should be permitted to profit by selling the meat they harvest. It’s a thoroughly bad idea because historically, market hunting was not good for wild animal populations.

Sport hunters were the saviors of wildlife because we advocated restricted seasons, bag limits and other regulations. We volunteered to pay special taxes for game conservation. Why would America want to turn away from what spared species from extinction?

Not only does sport hunting conserve healthy wildlife populations, sport hunters are also the drivers in the conservation organizations that spend millions and millions of private dollars annually, investing in wildlife habitat and lobbying for sound wildlife management.

Not only have game animal populations thrived because of sport hunting, but so have all other animals that share the habitat.

Not only has sport hunting created countless opportunities for the common, everyday hunter to enjoy a wholesome pastime, it has also created a thriving economic industry that thousands upon thousands of hunters participate in – even though sport hunters have never asked to make a direct profit from the game they bag.

The hunting industry already offers endless ways for hunters to make a living in the hunting industry. Plenty of hunters invent and market animal calls, treestands, clothing and other products. Hunters are writing books, selling photographs, creating artwork, conducting seminars, developing television programs, promoting sport shows and more.

You say, “Wait a minute, Sorensen – only a few people can do that.” Yes, that’s true – as it’s true in every field – not everyone becomes an entrepreneur.

But suppose we create a class of privileged elite market hunters. Suppose I’m one of them, and I make an agreement with several farmers to kill and sell the deer that are eating their corn. That gives me an enormous advantage over you, the ordinary hunter. My market hunting is taking deer that you might otherwise have an opportunity to hunt.

Anyone reading this like that idea? …. I didn't think so. You might say, “But I don’t live in Michigan.” True again, but an idea that takes hold in one place will spread to others.

Sport hunting is one of the things that still works well across this great nation. Yes, we continually tweak it, but it certainly isn’t broken, so it doesn’t need fixing.

Establishing elite class of hunters will create a new rift in the ranks of hunters, and end up monetizing wild animals in a way that would likely eliminate sport hunting altogether and remove wildlife from public interest.

The people who have come up with this terrible idea label it a “win-win,” but it would end up being a “lose-lose” because government tentacles seldom know their limits. It would be a way for states to sell a new kind of license and give deer a commercial value.

Then, what’s to stop government from taxing you when you harvest a deer? Ultimately, wildlife would become a commodity and market hunting would end up becoming a cost to us all. It would eliminate sport hunting. It would remove wildlife from the public interest. Wildlife would no longer exist for its own sake. It would be regulated to benefit government, and not the interests government should serve.

If you think wildlife and hunting are facing some serious challenges now, wait until every deer is turned into dollars.


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