by Erica Rhoad, Director of Hunting Policy, NRA-ILA - Friday, October 5, 2018
Every day, actually every hour, animal-rights extremists, and supposedly well-meaning but ill-informed people in the United States and across the globe, are working to end hunting. They rely on emotion and misdirection to confuse average citizens into supporting their cause. Articles, opinion pieces and editorials in local, national and even international outlets confuse hunting with poaching; demonize hunters; blame hunters for wildlife population declines; and make the false claim that there are no limitations on hunting whatsoever. The people writing these articles are so far removed from nature that they don’t realize—and don’t care—that they are trying to remove the one component absolutely necessary to successful conservation throughout the world: the hunter.
While most Americans support hunting, this support is slowly eroding over time on a species-by-species basis. Animal-rights proponents know they can’t stop whitetail deer hunting without a rebellion, so they instead push hunting bans by choosing other wildlife to drive opposition to hunting more broadly. Amazingly enough, predators are incredibly popular with the public, and that’s why efforts to ban bear hunting and mountain lion hunting, for example, have been successful in some states. I’ve heard hunters say, “They’ll never end deer hunting.” Well, maybe not in our lifetime, but what about the next generation? Make no mistake, their goal is to end all hunting, and they haven’t been shy about saying that.
Hunters are a minority in this country. Fewer and fewer Americans get outside and actually interact with Mother Nature than in times past. Like it or not, this is unlikely to change anytime soon. As hunters, we know that we’re in on the best kept secret to living a life with a direct connection to the outdoors, and experiencing the natural world and all its glory. We understand and appreciate the circle of life and the natural order of fauna and flora. But as much as we appreciate this, millions of Americans will never understand it as we do. What they know about nature comes from a Hollywood production or a post on social media. They will very likely wonder how anyone could shoot a lion or an elephant—but if they knew the lion or elephant was beyond its reproducing years and actually threatened the local community, would that change their minds? Maybe. Is it worth trying to educate them? Absolutely.
While we might not be able to change the minds of activists, we can reaffirm most Americans’ support for hunting. We can correct the outright lies propagated by animal-rights extremists. We can tell our incredibly powerful story. We must reclaim the narrative. We must, as Chris Cox said at the 2017 Safari Club International Hunters' Convention, be as passionate about defending hunting as we are about going hunting. NRA is trying to do just that, but we can’t do it without you. We must remain as dedicated to protecting hunting as we are about gun rights. The tools are the same, we just need to broaden our focus.
Most importantly, hunters must vote. And they must encourage friends, family and fellow hunters to do the same. Electing and re-electing pro-Second Amendment and pro-hunting candidates is essential to protecting our hunting heritage. If you’re not sure about a candidate, know the NRA evaluates candidates on the Second Amendment and hunting to let you know where candidates truly stand. Visit nrapvf.org and click on your state. It’s also essential to vote in every election. Even the local school board member may someday move up to become a congressman, senator or governor.
The second thing hunters can do is stay informed. It’s easy to do this as an NRA member. Continue reading Hunters' Leadership Forum, sign up for NRA-ILA alerts at nraila.org/sign-up, and sign up for text alerts by texting “NRA” to 313131. NRA-ILA will send you alerts to let you know when you need to act. For example, there was a shooting-range accident (no one was harmed) in Virginia and the local county commissioner was proposing an overly restrictive discharge ordinance as a response. NRA-ILA informed our members through action alerts and soundly defeated the ordinance. This past year, the state of Nevada was proposing a no-discharge ordinance within 1 mile of an occupied dwelling. Again, NRA-ILA activated its members and defeated this effort. Without you and your willingness to contact your elected officials, however, we have little power to defeat such measures.
The NRA is known more for protecting the Second Amendment than for protecting hunting. But make no mistake, the NRA does more for hunting than any other organization, hands down. First, without the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, there is no hunting. Second, the NRA is the only pro-hunting organization that has a presence at every level of government and every branch of government—the NRA is constantly fighting anti-hunting efforts at the local, state and federal level and fighting anti-hunting lawsuits in the courts. Third, the NRA is also playing offense—your association led the way to end Sunday hunting bans in many states, pass amendments to state constitutions protecting the right to hunt and fish in perpetuity, and is currently working to pass new hunter-voter laws where hunters may register to vote when they buy their hunting or fishing licenses.
Hunters are residents of the real world. We care about fair chase and ethical kill—all to benefit the animal we are hunting. Collectively, we spend millions of dollars each year to fund wildlife conservation, enhance public access and promote hunter safety. We protect the environment by helping state and federal wildlife officials to keep wildlife populations at a healthy balance. We feed our families and friends and even donate meat to the hungry. We are America’s first and best conservationists; we just need to do a better job letting the rest of America know that. With your help, activism and continued support, we can protect hunting for generations to come.
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