by Erin C. Healy - Tuesday, January 1, 2019
According to the laws of physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Say you resolve to put your money where your mouth is and join a conservation group that focuses on your favored game species, only to withdraw from conversation or change the channel when you hear hunters being maligned. The key to a healthy hunting community is combining small changes in approach and mindset, friendships and action, over the course of time—like how changing your bearing even slightly over distance traveled can land you in a completely different place. If you attempt to do too much, you’ll likely fail, ending up worse off than you were before—more isolated and discouraged. The battle for hunting and your freedoms is winnable, provided we maintain vision, perseverance and faith.
We Are Here
If we in the hunting community keep doing what we’re doing, we will only garner more of the same. Our numbers are in decline, we are aging and there are not enough young hunters to fill our ranks. Perhaps we see ourselves as quintessential rugged individualists, able to feed ourselves and survive in the woods. We’d rather take the risks associated with being free than to be enslaved to government handouts and controls. We want to be left alone to live our lives without interference from any bureaucrat or controversy from any activist.
The reality is that our power is waning even within the state agencies that manage game populations. There are more hikers and wildlife photographers than there are hunters. Although we still contribute greatly to those agencies through our licenses and equipment taxes, as soon as they figure out how to tax bird watchers and campers, that will end, and with it our say on where our dollars go. But history shows that a people will only stay suppressed for so long. Eventually they will get so uncomfortable that they will rise up against those that cause them harm.
Are we not uncomfortable enough yet? Are the death threats not severe enough? Is the attack on hunting by countless well-funded animal-rights-extremist organizations not dangerous enough? You may think it’s ridiculous for animals to be granted human rights, but all it takes is one activist judge to set the precedence that animals have human rights, and we’ll be up on murder charges. Organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) don’t want to end poaching or preserve game populations; they want all hunting, all pet ownership, all meat eating stopped. They’re serious. Are we uncomfortable enough yet?
Building Alliances in Ancillary Communities
As much as we envision ourselves the resilient survivor in this war, that won’t be the case if we retreat and ignore our adversaries in the hopes that they’ll go away. What we can do is align ourselves, of course, with state agencies and game conservation groups that work together to preserve species and their habitats and migration routes. We can support those who are willing to do battle on the legislative front. Politics is a dirty business, and the majority of us are loath to venture near it, but we must buttress those individuals and organizations brave enough to stand in our stead, starting with the NRA.
But what about others? Horse owners, purebred dog breeders, zoo managers and countless others are constantly in a battle with animal rights extremists, and their numbers are fewer than ours. They are our friends. In turn, we are a subset of Second Amendment supporters as hunting cannot exist without it. We must foster a coalition mindset wherever possible.
Preparing Ourselves for Victory
Constantly being on the defensive is not a winning approach. We must educate ourselves, police our own ranks, explain that poaching is not hunting—and be willing and able to fight. Every hunter can appreciate the physical, mental and spiritual elements of being battle-ready; they are the same for hunting. Maintaining physical and mental fitness and being spiritually aware of Nature’s beauty and power help us go on the offensive mentally, prepared to win.
Own Your Voice
Often associated with the image of the iconic woodsman is his or her laconic mode of expression. As challenging as it may be for some of us to speak up, we cannot let attacks and threats against our lifestyle to go unanswered. We cannot let individuals or institutions malign us. We must be armed with logic-based arguments that convince non-hunters that hunting is beneficial to wildlife conservation.
Knowing When and How to Act
Hunters know how to turn out for policy feedback meetings. We know how to introduce children, spouses and newcomers to hunting. We know that our heart is where our treasure is, and we give generously of our time and money to organizations and efforts that promote hunting. If we work within the industry, we understand the three Rs—recruitment, retention and reactivation or R3—and how to apply them to maximize growth within the hunting community. We know that women, as the only hunter demographic enjoying significant growth, have a pivotal role to play in preserving and promoting hunting.
But there are so many attacks, every day. Where do we even begin? The military has an expression: violence of action. It means the unrestricted use of speed, strength, surprise and aggression to achieve total dominance against your enemy. We are not physically at war with our enemies, so there must be restraint. However, the mindset is valuable. Constant, well-thought-out—and legal—action is required without let-up.
Fight back in small ways wherever you are. Library’s selection of hunting books scant? Recommend must-have titles. Newspaper publishing anti-hunting letters to the editor? Write your own letter to the editor countering each point and adding relevant information. Hear an anti-hunting message on radio or TV? Request a transcript to verify what was said and call or stop in to register your polite, organized complaints with someone authorized to make changes. NRA in a legal battle that benefits hunters? Support those efforts knowing that it is doing what we individually would not be able to achieve.
Keep the Faith
“Keep the faith” is a rallying cry when times get tough, and times are admittedly tough right now. We must continue to believe that everything a hunter is and does is not only good and right, but an integral part of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. You cannot doubt, or waver or give in and close your social media account. You can rest, but you must come back and continue to engage, supporting fellow hunters, nurturing neophytes and debating those who not only disagree with us but wish us harm. We must persevere. And we will. We hunt. This is the year we begin to see the battles shift in our favor.
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