The Great Divide - Conservation's Weakest Link

I recently sat in on a conservation meeting in a sportsmen’s lodge outside New Hampshire’s capitol of Concord. The topic for discussion – the lack of camaraderie amongst state and regional sportsmen and women, and the toll this division has taken on conservation and wildlife programs throughout the state and region. One individual in particular stood up and stated his piece on what was wrong with the current state of hunting and trapping across America. “I’m going to say something that may offend some of you, but it needs to be said” the man stated, “Sportsmen groups are one of the most unorganized groups of people in the country.” There wasn’t a single rebuttal from any of the individuals in attendance; everyone knew full well what this gentleman meant, and furthermore, what it means for the future of consumptive outdoor activities in the region and the country.

It’s a subject that not too many hunters and anglers recognize, or want to readily admit. Those of us in the more “niche” activities like hound hunting and fur trapping know this scenario all too well. Let’s face it, you may be a big-time goose or duck hunter, and you may be very passionate about that particular aspect of outdoor consumptive sports. Let’s say a bill comes through your state legislature to restrict or ban the activities of bear hunting. Are you, as the duck hunter, really going to take the time off from work or write a personal convincing letter to your state representative to save bear hunting when you know full well you’ll never partake in bear hunting? I’m guessing the answer nine times out of ten would be “no”, and reasons like this highlight why consumptive outdoorsmen and women are constantly under scrutiny from anti-hunting and anti-consumptive organizations Nationwide. Decades ago this type of mindset was really unheard of – if you hunted deer, chances were you also dropped a line in the creek for trout and trapped muskrats along the marshlands during duck season. In many of the mid-western states, this particular mindset is still deeply seeded and reinforced with larger populations of rural folks holding tight to their outdoor, self-reliant roots. But for many of us on the West and East coasts, there has been several different off-shoots of consumptive sportsmen all passionate about their own particular practices, rather than looking at hunting, fishing and trapping as an all-encompassing benefit to conservation and outdoor recreation.

Now I know there’s plenty of you out there reading this wondering what I’m talking about, thinking to yourselves that its only common sense to support all forms of hunting, trapping, and angling. Unfortunately, those of us with this type of ideology seem so content with this idea that our support and voices are not being heard when the proverbial deer piss hits the fan. We should support and commend each other on our common sense logic regarding this natural world being managed and regulated as a resource for all consumptive practices, not just one individual brand of hunting or fishing.

However, every state and province in North America, and probably the world for that matter, have divisions within their hunting ranks. The bird hunters don’t care for the trappers; the deer hunters don’t care for the hounds-men; the anglers don’t care for the hunters. The cycle repeats itself every fall, and sometimes these disputes or disagreements regarding wildlife management begin to spill over into clubs and departments, causing a greater divide and offshoots within states and regions. When a bill or piece of legislature does come through threatening the current ways of hunting and trapping, its usually only those who’s hides get affected (pun intended) that spend the greatest amount of time voicing opposition.

Meanwhile, the animal liberation extremists and “hands-off conservation” groups have a field day presenting themselves as the greater majority – when in the grand scheme this is clearly not the case.

So what exactly am I getting at? Am I seriously trying to convince every New Hampshire deer and pheasant hunter to show up at the next anti-trapping legislation hearing? Well, frankly in a perfect world that’s what I’d like to see, and I recall a time when that was not such an outlandish request.

What I will realistically settle for is joining your local Sportsman’s group. I’m not talking about the local skeet club or shooting range, but rather your state organization dedicated to preserving hunting, fishing, and trapping statewide for everyone. The Sportsman’s Alliance for instance, is a national organization who champions such values. They are always on the lookout protecting not only deer hunters and bass fishermen, but the fur trappers, hound hunters, and turkey callers as well. While national groups like the Sportsmens Alliance do an excellent job, we must also support each other at the state and regional level. Almost every state and province has some kind of consumptive sportsmen’s club or organization; Maine has SAM, New Hampshire has the NH Wildlife Federation, and so on down the line from Vermont to California. These groups not only support all major forms of regulated hunting and fishing, but also serve as a bridge of unity between the different classes of these activities.

When each of you took your hunting or trapping education classes, you learned about concepts like carrying capacity, wildlife management, and conservation. I can tell you right now - that Primos hunting decal on the back of your F-250 doesn’t mean a damn thing if you don’t support the other aspects of conservation that go along with its meaning. It really doesn’t matter how much you spent on your duck blind, or which Pro-Staff you belong to; if you aren’t willing to recognize and support the other aspects of outdoor wildlife conservation, such as fur trapping and bear hunting, your Real-Tree camo pajamas are nothing more than a fashion statement. More than 90 million U.S. residents (16 years old and older) participated in some form of wildlife-related recreation in 2011 – the fact that we constantly fight to keep trapping and sport hunting alive in each state yearly is a downright embarrassment.

Despite what anti-hunting activists may say or think, I know lack of support for these “niche” activities aren’t due to lack of individual sympathy for the cause, but rather a lack of motivation to see the fight through. This is where we all, as a consumptive outdoor activity group, need to unify and stand with one another against those who wish to see all forms of hunting and fishing abolished from the North American continent. If you don’t believe your brand of outdoor hunting could be targeted, take a look at the headlines to get a snapshot of how these anti-hunting groups deceitfully operate. It’s far too difficult to push a man off his stool – it’s much easier to whittle away at each supporting leg of that stool when he’s not looking – and watch him fall on his ass in sheer shock and surprise.

Keep in mind these organizations don’t protest and attempt law changes on principle – their motivation for abolishing hunting is primarily donation-driven. Take a look at any of these anti-hunting groups; HSUS, PETA, Furbearer Defenders, and countless others; and you’ll see their websites plastered with “donate-now” buttons. They parade state to state crying injustice, corruption, and animal welfare while soliciting for donations to “their cause”. Once the deed is done, they’re on to the next state to suck the life out of their outdoor conservation groups – the wildlife they claim to support ends up suffering in their wake as they continue to “follow the money”. Most of the people against hunting who speak at these state hearings are paid to be there – it’s much more motivating to “save the animals” when you’re collecting a fat paycheck in the process. Instead of standing and fighting these groups, sportsmen are all too busy pushing their neighbors into the expanding activist pit in hopes these anti-hunting groups will move on if trapping and bear hunting are abolished – one only has to research any of these groups to see this is clearly not the end game - Staten Island is already experimenting with feeding deer birth control to avoid hunting and culling overpopulation; it’s happening right in front of your eyes and I’m sorry to say the “Redneck” sticker on the back of your truck isn’t going to stop it.

It’s not all doom and gloom ladies and gentlemen; there is a light at the end of this ever-growing tunnel. You can start by becoming an active member of your local Sportsmen’s clubs and keeping an ear to the wall for anti-hunting and trapping legislation. Find out who your local district and state representatives are and don’t be shy about letting them know you are a hunter or trapper. Whether or not they’re a democrat or republican, conservative or liberal, most representatives listen to what their citizens are saying. Sending a handwritten letter introducing yourself and your outdoor activities is a good start to breaking the ice before legislation is introduced. It doesn’t take a lot of time either; I work a full time job, maintain and run this website free of charge, and take an active role in my local conservation groups with time to still hunt and trap in the process!

In closing, whether you hunt to put venison in the freezer, fish for sport, bird hunt with dogs or set traps for natural fur garments; you are an intricate part of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Your support is needed as our society is overcome by tablets, smartphones, self-driving cars and Kardashians. Our self-reliant ways of life are ALL in jeopardy as habitat loss and out-of-touch citizens continue to constrain and restrict our activities. It’s time we start pushing back and regain our freedoms as fixtures of the natural world. United We Stand, Divided We All Fall.