Being a hunter gets a bad rap today. Most times, when I see the evils of hunters being debated on Facebook or some other such medium, pretty quickly the debate deteriorates into name calling. "Hunters are more stupid than the animals they hunt." "Hunters like to carry big guns and kill things to compensate for shortcomings in their manhood." "You just hunt to get out of visiting my mother." OK, that one is true, but I have only heard it from my wife.
This blog is first and foremost about the training of hunting dogs. People like dogs and like to hear how dogs are trained, so, a (very) few people read this. But the elephant in the room is the notion of hunting. To determine if one has been successful training a hunting dog, one must take the dog hunting. And hunting comes with a great deal of stigma.
The stigma against hunting and hunters is regional. No one much questions hunting in places like Montana or Wyoming. But, I live near the third largest city in the US: Chicago. Cities and hunting go together like peas and carburetors. Meaning they don't. The percentage of hunters in a place like Chicago is quite small compared to more rural settings. A person in Chicago gets very little personal interaction (positive or negative) with a hunter. In the absence of that interaction, it is societal voices that colors one's opinions of hunters, and those societal voices that speak about hunters are often negative.
But, in spite of those voices, hunters are real people. And as for me, my feelings have been hurt. We hunters have collectively accomplished and are accomplishing some pretty remarkable things. Things you may not realize.
Let me be clear: if you are opposed to hunting, it is not my intention to try to change that. It is my intention to highlight a few of the positive things hunters are doing. Who knows, maybe you'll even hug a hunter today.
1. Hunters Saved The Peregrine Falcon From Extinction
Excessive use of DDT was found to cause egg shell thinning in certain apex predators, such as the peregrine falcon and the bald eagle. The peregrine was put on the endangered species list and DDT was banned in the US.
The problem with the peregrines was that the falcon population had fallen below a critical mass. There were simply not enough wild falcons to repopulate, and the species was headed toward extinction, in spite of the DDT ban.
The hunters stepped in to help.
There is a category of hunter known as a falconer. Falconers hunt wild game, but they do so not with a gun but with a trained bird of prey. The falconers had several things going for them that the biologists needed. They had intimate knowledge of the falcon. They had knowledge of captive rearing. And they had the birds themselves. Falconers taught the biologists how to breed falcons in captivity. Falconers surrendered their birds to be breeding stock. Falconers taught the biologists how to raise falcons in captivity and how to release them back into the wild. They also taught the biologists how to get more chicks by getting the parents to double clutch. The first clutch of eggs would be taken and put with a surrogate mother. The original mother would lay a second clutch. Voila...instant doubling of the chicks.
Due to the sacrificial giving and deep knowledge of the falconers, in 30 years the peregrine falcon has made a recovery and is no longer on the endangered species list.
2. Hunters support local economies
In Southwest Illinois, there is an area that is rich. It is not rich in oil, coal, or natural gas. It is rich in deer. This area is known as the golden triangle and consists of Adams, Brown, Schuyler, and Pike counties. In this area, there is a tendency to grow deer that are very large and grow massive antlers. Hunters travel to this area, lodge, eat and hunt in this area. Out-of-state hunters will pay over $400 for a license to hunt these big deer. Land is quite expensive in this area, and gaining permission to hunt land in these counties will cost quite a bit in the form of a "trespass fee". The economy in this area is flourishing for one reason: big deer.
Hunters spend more on their hobby today than they ever have. Access to hunting land is getting harder, so hunters travel further and part with more and more of their cash in pursuit of game. When money flows, economies are boosted.
In Iowa, the Ringneck Pheasant used to be very populous. Due to reduced habitat and consistently poor spring weather, the numbers of birds has dropped precipitously in the last decade. People used to travel to Iowa for the sole purpose of hunting the pheasant. Small town hotels and diners survived on the influx of out of state cash during hunting season. Now, entire towns are disappearing into the cornfields because there are no birds, and without the birds, there are no hunters.
In short, many states rely on out of state hunter dollars to augment and sustain their economies. Personally, I think helping out a poor community is a good thing.
3. Hunters Save Wild Places
Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden something along the lines of this: The best friend of the animal is the hunter who pursues him. Many organizations have been set up by hunters around animals that they hunt:
- Pheasants Forever
- Ducks Unlimited
- Quail Unlimited
- Ruffed Grouse Society
- Whitetails Unlimited
- National Wild Turkey Federation
There is one theme and one goal common to all of these organizations: Habitat. Ducks Unlimited started purchasing nesting cover along flyways so the nesting habitat would not be disturbed. Pheasants Forever manages lands across the country to help improve habitat for the birds.
If you talk to any wildlife biologist, they will tell you this: If you improve the habitat for one species, you improve the habitat for all species. Because of organizations like these, there are wild places that support wild animals. Places saved from urban sprawl. These organizations are run by hunters. Donations come in from hunters. And habitat is left better off because of hunters.
Hunters save wildlife, hunters help local economies and hunters save wild places. If you are opposed to hunting, I get that, I do. Hunting is a grizzly thing and is not everyone's cup of tea. I don't want to change your view on the hunting. I do want to change your view on the hunter. We are not the knuckle dragging, short-come compensating dolts we are often portrayed as. More often than not, we are highly environmentally conscious and active, and by coincidence of spending on our passion, we support local economies as well. All we really want is a hug.
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