by Phil Phillips - Saturday, July 2, 2016
As a Colorado native, I'm proud to say the Centennial State is doing great things to put hunters in a good light—where we belong—through the creative and innovative "Hug a Hunter" ad campaign. Turn on the evening news and you'll see a variety of prime-time 30-second spots that immediately grab your attention as wildlife species thank hunters for the fact that conservation happens all because of hunter funding.
Said to be the first of their kind, the Hug a Hunter commercials are part of the Colorado Wildlife Council's Hug a Hunter and Hug an Angler multi-faceted public education and marketing campaign gaining traction with conservation and wildlife agencies nationwide. It's past time to get the word out about the fact wildlife management happens because of hunting and fishing. Herds stay healthy and thrive, habitat is preserved and our ecosystem is balanced—thanks to hunters and anglers.
The Rise of Hug a Hunter
Established by the Colorado State Legislature in the late 1990s, the Colorado Wildlife Council focuses on educating the public on the critical role sportsmen play in habitat conservation and wildlife management. Launched a few years back, the campaign has been revamped for 2016 to include television, radio and online ads and billboards touting the benefits for fish and wildlife as well as for non-hunting outdoor enthusiasts. For starters, fees from hunting and fishing licenses pay to manage wildlife and keep herds healthy by preventing overpopulation, starvation and disease, all backed by scientific research and monitored by conservation biologists. The ads explain how "hunters and animals need each other more than you think." Funding comes from a 75-cent surcharge on every Colorado hunting and fishing license sold. According to Colorado Outdoor News, other states such as Michigan have noted the success of Colorado’s commercials and view it as a model to launch similar initiatives. In the meantime, in the name of protecting Colorado and its natural beauty, go ahead and hug a hunter.
While most hunters and fishermen are aware of the vital role our dollars have on wildlife, fish and their habitat, the campaign takes a giant step toward educating the non-sporting community. Sportsmen's license fees, excise taxes and other monies we've generated exceed $1.1 billion for 2016 alone.
The Dangers of Colorado's Anti-Hunting Movement
For some background, in the early 1990s, Colorado residents saw ballot initiatives driven by the anti-hunting group Colorado Voters for Animals (formerly the Colorado Humane Voters League) seeking to ban spring bear hunting and trapping. Both initiatives passed. A bit of online research shows the group's board of directors includes a registered lobbyist for the anti-hunting Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and an attorney for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Representatives from these two radical extremist groups certainly are not people we want telling America's wildlife managers how to do their jobs. The good news in all this? Since Colorado sportsmen started a public education campaign in 2005 to shed light on how much money hunters and fishermen contribute to wildlife management, not a single anti-hunting or fishing amendment has reached the ballot.
That said, Colorado still has no spring bear or trapping season, which is costing the state considerable time and money as the bears still have to be managed, which means government representatives must be paid to do the job hunters paid to do by buying licenses—not to mention the economic loss to local businesses once the season was taken away. It's time to take the issues out of the ballot box and let the fish and wildlife biologists do their jobs. Not only have the antis not saved any bears, those who voted to shut down our season have no clue that bears still are being taken out of the population at the government's expense. If the state traps a problem bear, officials ear-tag it and move it. There is a two-strike policy: If the bear is captured a third time for causing problems, it is destroyed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Colorado's Hug a Hunter campaign could not come at a better time as anti-hunters step up efforts to destroy all hunting. For an example of how serious and dangerous things are just in Colorado, Denver's 2016 International Sportsmen’s Exposition (ISE) in January was an eye-opener, as the 37-year-old event attracted its first protesters. Anti-hunting extremists from the "animal liberation" group Direct Action Everywhere stormed the stage at one of the seminars to disrupt what they called an "early season deer killing lesson” presented by wildlife biologist Chris Roe, owner of Roe Outfitters. To show you the mentality of the other side, one protester demanded to know why the speaker hunted elk and not his own dogs.
Roe, who had brought his family to the seminar, told Outdoor Hub how difficult it was to explain to his children the level of hatred one person can have for a complete stranger. "My eight-year-old daughter looked at a woman holding a sign that read, ‘I Love Hunting Accidents,’ then peered up at me through worried eyes and asked, ‘Daddy, does that lady want you to die?'”
Hunters Have the Power!
I've been doing elk and bowhunting seminars for various hunting and conservation organizations such as the NRA, RMEF, MDF and Houston Safari Club over the past 20 years. While I'm fortunate to not have encountered protesters, the fact is that we collectively have a big problem. As we gauge the threats to hunting, we have the power to turn the tide if we merely take a stand.
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