(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, August 22, 2009.)
The question gets asked in a variety of ways. “Since hunting isn't necessary anymore, isn’t hunting just a way for people to express their cruel, primitive bloodlust?” “There was a time when man had to kill wild animals for protection and for food, but can’t we now just let animals live in peace?” The answer to both questions is “No!”
Non-hunters who enjoy wildlife
have much to thank hunters for.
These questions are not merely hypothetical. Many people truly think that hunters are cruel. Many actually believe that hunting isn’t necessary. And some embrace the idea that animals will live in peace if we stop hunting them. None of that is true.
The truth is this – when wildlife thrives, hunters are usually in the picture. Why? The answer is because man is a predator.
Yes, that answer raises eyebrows. It’s even counter-intuitive. But man is a predator unlike any other. He regulates himself. He considers the impact of his actions. He times his predation for the benefit of the prey species. He improves the habitat that his prey needs. He plans for the future of his prey.
So it’s not true that wildlife do just fine if hunters step out of the picture. And it’s especially not true in an increasingly urbanized society. Modern hunting benefits wildlife. Wherever hunters take an interest, we have more animals and a wider variety of species.
And the idea that animals ever “live in peace” is a sentimental view – and untrue whether they’re hunted or not.
Hunting is not cruel, and hunters generally are not driven by bloodlust. Modern hunters are, in fact, the best friends modern wildlife has. An informed hunter will care deeply about animals, from songbirds, to turtles, to butterflies – you name it. Yes, we can even use the word “love.”
Hunters are not expressing a bloodthirsty Neanderthal urge. When a modern hunter kills a deer, he understands the implications of his actions better than any hunter in history.
Hunting is the front line of game management, and hunters are the primary tool for keeping animals in balance with their habitat. This is accomplished not only through license allocations and scientific measurements of game populations by wildlife management agencies, but through the cooperation of dozens of volunteer conservation organizations dedicated to the health of wildlife habitat.
Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Ruffed Grouse Society, the list is long even before you add the groups that focus on aquatic species, such as Trout Unlimited. All are made up of sportsmen and women who fund research and work for the benefit of wildlife.
When hunters commit their resources to improving wildlife habitat, they don’t isolate the species of interest. Every animal in the habitat benefits.
The sheer number of hunters who support wildlife by donating both their time and money dwarfs the number of non-hunters who do the same. When you see a group of people planting tree seedlings, or cleaning up a waterway, it’s probably a sportsmen’s club.
Hunting pays its own way, because hunters pour billions of dollars into the economy every year. We’re not just keeping gun manufacturers afloat and we’re not just filling state coffers with license dollars.
Few people know that when we buy sporting rifles, shotguns, ammunition, and archery equipment, the price includes an 11% tax that goes to the Pittman-Robertson Fund, which is distributed to the states for the support of wildlife. When the Pittman-Robertson Act was passed in 1937, hunters were its leading champions, so non-hunters who enjoy wildlife have much to thank hunters for.
Hunters are responsible citizens. When a game law violation is reported, it’s usually a hunter who reports it. When help is needed to rescue an animal, hunters are the first on the scene. When a habitat improvement project is undertaken, you can depend on hunters to volunteer. And when blood boils because someone abuses wildlife, the blood is as likely to be in the veins of a hunter as it is a non-hunter.
The bottom line is that hunters do for wildlife much that non-hunters don’t do. What would happen if hunting were banned? Some terrible things – but that’s the subject for another column. Stay tuned.