I was lucky enough to spend some time this month week at SHOT Show, a trade show on hunting, shooting and the outdoors, where I got a chance to talk with hunters and shooting enthusiasts about conservation.
Just like fishing (it’s called fishing, not catching), getting into the outdoors is often the best part of hunting. Many of the stories we shared reflected the hours we’ve spent waiting for waterfowl or elk or deer without even touching the trigger. That’s more than just OK. Being outside, away from the day-to-day, we are free to embrace an important part of our national heritage as well as, in my case, a big part of a family one.
Maybe we’ll see something we have never seen before – nature is always surprising and always a thrill.
|Snowy owl. Credit: USFWS|
For instance, East Coast hunters, if they are near wide-open spaces, may be lucky enough to see a snowy owl. These Arctic visitors have been spotted in Kentucky and North Carolina, thousands of miles from their normal artic territory. What a sight!
Best of all for me, when I am hunting, I know I am helping conservation.
Hunters have provided billions of dollars for conservation over the years. Concerned hunters helped create the North American Conservation Model, which holds, among other things, that wildlife belongs to us all and that everyone should have the opportunity to hunt or fish. Hunters embrace seasons, limits and other rules to ensure that wildlife remain in abundance. They agitate for conservation causes and spend hours volunteering for conservation.
And lest we forget those billions of dollars, their support and those volunteer hours go toward the conservation of all wildlife, not just game species.
Dogged work by hunters, and many others, to preserve the Prairie Pothole Region – called America’s Duck Factory – will undoubtedly help many game species. But it also benefits non-game species such as dickcissels, yellow-headed blackbirds, grasshopper sparrows and upland sandpipers.
Hunters also helped make Federal Duck Stamps happen.
Duck Stamps still serve their original purpose – federal licenses for hunting migratory waterfowl – but they are also recognized as one of the most successful conservation programs ever. Since 1934, the money from sales of Federal Duck Stamps has purchased or leased more than 6 million acres of wetlands habitat in the United States.
The stamp has been $15 since 1991. We – and many hunter groups – are working on legislation that will restore the purchasing power of the Duck Stamp.
Hunting is also a valuable wildlife management tool, offering a way to control populations before they overrun their habitat.
When I come back from a hunting trip – after I clean up the dog, of course – I always give thanks. I have spent an hour or a day or maybe more if I’m really lucky with nature, breathing its clean air, enjoying its sights, sounds and smells, taking advantage of what the outdoors has to offer. And hunters help make it possible!