Hunting and hunters are under attack everyday in the United States. We hunters are assaulted from more directions now than ever before in our nation’s history, and unless we act, we could witness the end to not just our cherished way of life, but also the money to fund wildlife research, conservation efforts, and the last tangible link we have to nature at its most raw. If you don’t believe me, read the recent piece by Field and Stream’s columnist, Bill Heavy : Is Hunting in America Dying? Bill Heavey Says–It Can Happen. These attacks come from sources which may surprise many hunters. Let’s take a look at each one, then consider how best to prevail.
1. Anti-Hunting/Animal Rights Activists and Terrorists
The radical animal rights movement has been around since the 1970s when it began in Britain at Oxford University. This mistaken world view, in which humans are inherently evil and must not interact with animals in any meaningful way, has spread throughout the Western world since. Its adherents use any means at their disposal, some legal, some criminal, to force their closed-minded views on humanity. Once confined to university faculty rooms, the discussion as to how we, as humans, should relate to other species on this planet has moved into this country’s living rooms and offices. People who were indoctrinated as college students to believe all hunting is immoral have, over the decades, moved into influential positions throughout society: print and television journalism, the entertainment industry, corporate boardrooms, and most important, government bureaucracies.
While still not a mainstream view held by the majority, anti-hunting bias and hatred have become a significant force in local and national politics. Anti-hunters have persuaded the electorate to ban certain hunting methods in many states, and they continue to gain momentum. Their ultimate goal, the one they work toward every day, is a complete ban on all hunting nation-wide.
These people are a clear and present danger to our lives as we know them. For proof as to how effective they are, just look at the damage they have done in Britain. Rest assured, they have similar plans for the U.S.
2. Demographic Shift
The fact is, fewer people live in rural America, hunting’s bastion, and more people live in cities each year. The reasons for this shift are complex. As the farm industry continues to devolve away from family owned operations to large, corporate managed “factory” farms, there are fewer job opportunities in this sector for young rural people. Same goes for resource extraction industries such as mining and timber. The promised and ballyhooed rise in tourism and hospitality have not offset the income and opportunity losses in rural America. Then there is the tech sector’s meteoric rise. Rural Americans have begun a migration to urban centers to find tech and service jobs, much as people moved from the South to the North in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for factory work.
Like it or not, rural folks comprise hunting’s core population. Once relocated to urban centers, they all too often stop hunting. They perceive fewer opportunities to hunt and are pressured by their new neighbors and co-workers who are anti-hunting zealots. This is despite the fact there are many places to hunt just a short drive from most major cities. For more, read our story, 5 Unexpected Places to Hunt Game Animals for City Dwellers
3. Wildlife Habitat Loss
As urban centers grow, game habitat is either put under pressure or destroyed all together. This creates a dangerous feed-back loop: the more habitat is destroyed, the fewer places exist to hunt, and the fewer places there are, the fewer people choose to hunt because they can’t find suitable locations. Habitat loss is also directly affected by anti-hunting legislation and sentiment because the fees and excise taxes hunters pay provide direct funding for conservation efforts. The fewer hunters, the fewer dollars available to purchase land or fund studies.
4. The Aging Hunter Population
Make no mistake, baby-boomers are the most active hunters in over a century and their sheer numbers have shaped hunting in the post-World War Two era. The unfortunate fact is their love for the sport has not filtered down to their children and grand children. Again, there are many reasons, from technological overload to anti-hunting propaganda in schools and the urban population shift. Regardless the cause, this means as the boomers age they will, by necessity, stop hunting. There are far fewer adolescents and young adults ready to take their place in the hunting fields these days, and the trend shows no sign it will reverse soon–if ever.
5. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
The biggest surprise in the struggle to keep hunting alive in America is not social, but pathological. A new spectre has arisen on the horizon: CWD. It may become the biggest threat since the days of unrestricted market hunting in the 19th century.
CWD is a prion, not a bacteria or virus, which thrives in soil. It is picked up by animals, primarily deer and elk, as they graze. The animals carry these prions to new areas and deposit them on the ground in their feces where, in turn, it infects more animals. North American game populations have little or no resistance to CWD and it is devastating when it strikes. Fatality rates run from 50 to 80 percent, in most cases. The disease has similar symptoms to “mad cow” in bovines and Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans. It inflicts massive suffering on victims before they succumb to a painful, lingering death.
CWD first appeared in wild game populations in Colorado in the early 1990s. Since then, it has spread like a Biblical plague across the central and western U.S. Montana confirmed its first cases in early 2018, and it has arrived in the South-East, too. In every state where it has appeared, ruminant game herds have been decimated. Often, their populations have been reduced by 30 to 50 percent in just a few years. Left unchecked, CWD alone might spell the end to big game hunting as we have known it.
The Way Forward
Despite all the forces arrayed against American hunters, there is still much hope, and we should not lose heart. Hunting’s demise is not inevitable. We can save it, and we can do it now.
We must not–we cannot–allow anti-hunters to gain political ground. Now is the time to support pro-hunting organizations such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Rifle Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Wild Turkeys Unlimited, and any and all who will stand and fight with us. Although Big-Tech, based in anti-hunting enclaves such as the Bay Area, has tried to censor our message, they have yet to succeed. Use the internet to organize peaceful counter demonstrations against anti-hunters when they protest. Promote boycotts of any business which does not offer its full, and unequivocal support for us. Organize call-in and letter/email campaigns to lobby legislators at all levels to either support hunting-friendly legislation or oppose anti-hunting measures. Remember, politicians do care about one thing: winning and retaining office. Loud, organized voices get their attention like no other force on this planet.
While we can’t alter macro-economic forces which encourage people to abandon rural life for big cities, we can do a lot to help those people to continue to hunt or take up hunting. If you are a hunter who has relocated, don’t stop hunting. Contact your state’s game department and find out where you can hunt near your new city. Arm yourself with the facts about hunting, especially its economic impacts on conservation, and politely stand up to the anti-hunting brown shirts when you encounter them at work or on the street. If each hunter reached out to just one person they know who is interested in hunting and converted them to our way of life, we could grow hunting exponentially in just a decade.
Get involved at the local level with your city’s planning and zoning authorities. Speak out against proposed developments which do not provide for habitat preservation. Remember, loud, polite voices get attention more than you think. Use the internet to pack zoning hearings with pro-hunting people. Develop relationships with local reporters, become a go-to source on hunting and conservation issues for them. If you make their job easier and make them look good, they will rely on you for a definitive quote or sound-bite which will help sway the public with every article or broadcast.
Now is the time to recruit younger people into hunting, and the shooting sports. Even if you don’t have a young relative whom you could encourage and take hunting, you can give pro-hunting presentations to schools and youth-focused groups. If you persuade just one young person to take up the hunting challenge, you will have assured someone will take your place when you can no longer hunt.
Find out all you can about CWD and do everything possible to mitigate its spread. At last there is hope on this front. Check out our story, LSU Scientist Paves Way for Possible CWD Vaccine and Cure
Is hunting in the U.S. threatened? Yes, but it is not dead, far from it. If you, and every hunter, act now, we can preserve this unequaled bond we have with nature and ensure it never vanishes from the American landscape.
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