Hunting still has a valuable role to play in 21st century life. But how to make people understand that?
It’s a question hunters are often asked.
Why do we do what we do?
That’s something that, as a group, we’ve always had a hard time satisfactorily explaining to those who live outside our realm.
I know how hunting makes me feel, what satisfactions it brings, what joys it engenders, what memories of time spent with family and friends it creates. I believe, too, deep down, that it connects me to nature in an elemental way that those who go outside and look, but never touch, simply can’t experience.
But have I ever really conveyed that to a non-hunter in a way that they can understand?
I’m not so sure.
I’ve made some of the same arguments in favor of hunting that probably every other sportsmen has. There are plenty of good ones.
Food is one.
In America in particular, where our standard of living is so high relative to most of the rest of the world, most of us no longer have to hunt for sustenance. But wild game – and fish, for that matter – is a healthy alternative to other options. Gathering it is a tradition of field-to-table that’s as old as mankind.
Some people – thanks to the locavore movement – may get that.
Others don’t. The reason, I suspect, is they don’t like thinking of one animal dying so that another can live.
They likely eat meat, but they want it to come from a store that serves as a barrier between themselves and that death, carried out by a nameless, faceless butcher on an animal unseen and unknown.
Such people can’t understand why a hunter would want to or be willing to inject themselves into that process, to take a life, to feel blood on their hands, to be involved in the turning of an animal into food by skinning or plucking.
Population control is another argument hunters often make, though it’s one that applies only to certain species. As Ryan Bronson, director of Conservation and Public Policy for Vista Outdoor, said at the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s annual industry summit in Pittsburgh, we hunt to control the numbers of things like deer. The same is not true of ducks – or squirrels, rabbits, pheasants or the like.
We often talk about how hunting funds wildlife conservation, too. That’s certainly true. No other group foots the bill for wildlife from whitetails to woodrats like hunters.
Are any of those arguments swaying people to our side, though?
We have to figure that out, and soon. As Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a recent talk, sportsmen and women are, increasingly, unlike the rest of America. Always a minority, we – in a world where fewer and fewer people are going outside for any reason, let alone to hunt – often look different racially, take part in different activities and value different things.
We need to make rational arguments for what we do.
A good example of that can be found here. It’s a video on hunting’s relevance in the modern world.
As Bronson said, though, we also need to reach people on an emotional level, and show them that hunting is not only valuable, but fun.
That may be tough to do, but it’s a fight worth fighting.