My mind moves deep through the dilemma of losing another property to hunt on as the sun descends on the autumn afternoon and I stand, bow in my left hand, in a tree over the forest watching the squirrels chase each other. Then a red-tailed hawk drops in and the rhythm of the forest changes as the squirrels bark and disappear into trees. When the hawk sees me, another predator in the woods, it flies off and I smile and tell myself to stay in harmony with nature so I am ready when the deer move and not to think about whether I can come back here again.
The worries come anyway, as the property has sold again and these people are from Brooklyn and I know what that means. I’ve lost so many places to hunt now, mostly because of ignorance of the landowners. Some come around when they hit a deer with their SUV or catch Lyme disease from a tick or notice deer tracks in the soft dirt where their expensive shrubs, just planted, have been devoured during the night.
Such people are so into the environment yet so out of touch with it at the same time that it’s too jarring for them to hear this.
That is the soft flesh of the culture war on hunting. The harsh, angry teeth of the movement are the animal-rights activists—the way they hate and the derogatory things they say online about those who hunt—are a different thing.
Those fanatics, however, are few in number. I’ve met them before and wrote about encounters with them in my book “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting,” but the truth is you almost have to seek them out—most people aren’t like that. But, in a way, other anti-hunters are worse. At least with the extreme type you know the topic will come up in conversation. With the softer, more sophisticated and less ideological people who are opposed to hunting, it almost never comes up. It’s almost something they are embarrassed to admit exists. They don’t understand hunting but somehow, through media influenced by the few anti-hunting activists on the extreme Left fringe of politics, they feel it is wrong, something we should evolve away from in the 21st century. (If you’re not sure how anti-hunting activists influence what editors approve and journalists write, then try writing about hunting for any mainstream publication, as I have, and just watch them come into the comments section and see the letters they send to the editor and read how they attack you on social media—all in very personal and dishonest ways. Next, watch the editors pull back, not wanting all that negative attention from the Left. This is when you’ll know how those few control so much of the narrative—even if they are harming nature and our relationship with it in the process.)
Of course, people who identify as being pro-environment, yet are anti-hunting, are ignoring two contradictions. The first is with reality itself, as deer, bears, coyotes and more only can be ignored if you live in a community too paved over and built up for nature to visit. Thinking of hunting as wrong is also a contradiction of their green values because, regardless of anyone’s views, we must still get sustenance from the land, water or forests. We need to eat, just as animals do, so we are a part of the natural process whether we like it or not. This is why it is up to us to be educated, responsible and ethical with how we stay in balance with the natural world. This is why hunters pay the salaries of wildlife biologists and for conservation of our natural resources.
This is also why, as hunters, we can’t hide in the woods. We have to reach out and educate and, whether loudly or with soft voices, we have to help those who don’t hunt to understand why we hunt. As hunters we know that real experiences—as opposed to fake, walled-off realities—are critical to molding good, ethical conservationists and we need to say as much. We need to shout out loud that hunting is the epitome of the real experience, so much so that it makes us into gamekeepers, into stewards of the land and wildlife.
Of course, not all hunters fully comprehend this, as wildlife biologists and other scientists are notoriously bad communicators. And young and new hunters have to come to terms with their chosen active role in the natural world.
Some are confused. An article in The Trace, for example, that unfairly attacks the NRA’s efforts to protect hunting rights quotes a North Carolina journalist named David Fellerath as being a “longtime hunter.” Fellerath says, “In my experience, hunting has been a pretty apolitical activity. I’ve never experienced an organized anti-hunting campaign or had any animus directed at me to make me ashamed of hunting. I’d hate to get dragged into a culture war.”
Sure, the front lines of this culture war are mostly along the urban-rural divide. If someone lives far from Los Angeles or New York City they might not encounter the anti-hunting bias. But Fellerath is different. He is not a longtime hunter. In an article in Indy Week in 2013 Fellerath announced that he just shot his first deer. He then says he voted for President Barack Obama, adding, “I applaud [Obama’s] effort to change this country’s gun culture.” He later says, “I don’t want anything to do with the NRA, but it won’t leave me alone. Thanks to theNRA’s appalling and evil powerin Washington, I am besmirched and complicit. It’s the first or second question people ask me: ‘You're not a member of the NRA, are you?’ It’s like the old days when traveling North Carolinians constantly had to answer for Jesse Helms.”
So this is the source a journalist with The Trace uses to attack the NRA and its hard work to protect and enhance hunting rights and wildlife conservation? Talk about dishonest journalism.
That’s just one example of the ignorance and spin hunters are up against. It’s yet another example of why hunters can’t hide in the woods. Sportsmen need to stay informed, stand up for what’s right and vote.