MC out in TN: ethical hunting is conservation

Fall is the favorite season for so many people. The cooler temperatures tempt people to open the windows and let the great outdoors in or lure people to go out and enjoy the great outdoors. Fall is great for hiking, camping, gardening and most especially hunting. 

Dove, squirrels, turkeys, deer and other woodland creatures are busy getting fat for the winter or looking for mates, and all this activity brings hunters into the fields and forests. Most of them hunt solo. They are expected to, and generally do, strictly obey the game laws in one of the few sports where no one is looking.

There are officials in hunting called game wardens. They primarily focus on stopping professional poachers. The laws they enforce are powerful and strict. It’s almost as if the laws are written to make an example out of anyone caught violating game laws. That might explain why some hunters obey the laws and limits of hunting. 

The reason why the vast majority of hunters obey these laws has nothing to do with fear of getting caught though. It has to do with the nature of the sport itself. We are members of a small close-knit subculture. Strict adherence to game laws is an expectation built on respect and love.

Traditionally, the love of nature and hunting in particular is passed down through generations. According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, (TWRA), most new hunters are from rural areas and hunting families. Last year, more than 717,000 hunting licenses were sold. Much of that money to buy those licenses went to conservation efforts, but those numbers are dwindling.

America lost 2.2 million hunters between 2011 and 2016 alone, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Without getting too deep into demographics, hunting is losing the culture war to urbanization. In 2016, just 11.5 million people hunted. That’s less than 4 percent of the national population. From an early age, we who are raised in hunting families learn that the game laws exist so that the game will exist for the next generation.

In a jurisdiction as large as the great outdoors, there has to be an internal mechanism that compels us to do the right thing in the field. Otherwise, unethical hunters will make decisions based on what they can get away with rather than what is right. Ethics are best taught by family and friends. For those unfortunate enough to not grow up hunting, hunter ethics are part of the curriculum in state hunter safety courses.

Responsible or ethical hunters are concerned with much more than killing. Some are looking for local, sustainable, ecologically conscious organic meat. Whatever the motivation, responsible hunters make hunting an effective work conservation tool.

Ethical hunters do much more than obey the law. They develop a personal code of right and wrong. Here are a few examples: ethical hunters pick up litter they might encounter; they respect other hunters’ and non-hunters’ activities and beliefs; they get a land owner’s written permission to hunt; they hunt according to fair chase; they develop their firearm safety and shooting skills; they support wildlife conservation programs; they make full use of any animal they kill.

This small part of our overall population does a lot of good for the environment. Through state licenses and fees, hunters pay $796 million a year for conservation programs. Through donations to groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, National Deer Alliance, National Wild Turkey Foundation and others, hunters contribute more than $440 million additional dollars a year to conservation efforts. 

These and other organizations contribute sweat as well by sponsoring and manning environmental improvement projects. These groups focus on environmental improvement which helps much more than hunted species. By focusing on improving large areas, plants and animals, their efforts benefit us all. To read more about how hunting is conservation, I’d recommend visiting the following link:

http://www.rmef.org/conservation/huntingisconservation/25reasonswhyhuntingisconservation.aspx

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