This post comes from Joshua Winchell, coordinator for the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, in honor of National Hunting and Fishing Day.
Hunters have provided hundreds of billions of dollars in economic benefit to our country, according to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. The survey has been conducted every five years since 1955 and measures the participation and expenditures of our nation’s hunters, anglers, and wildlife watchers.
And this same survey indicates that hunting participation in America has flatlined.
It seems to me that hunters are getting older, crustier and more likely to yell at neighborhood kids to get off the lawn. Hunting is out-dated, atavistic, and requires significant amounts of your time. Hunting is poorly suited to a population intent on jamming more activities into a day stubbornly refusing to expand beyond its traditional 24-hour limit.
Hunting is inconvenient. Hunting has a high barrier for participation.
You can’t participate in hunting until you first master a set of skills you don’t normally pick up during your daily routine: only after hours of firearms and/or archery lessons and practice (and a required hunter safety course) do you gain access to hunting.
And then there is the taking of an animal’s life, which most people – while happily subcontracting those duties out to others – are not generally inclined to personally pursue.
Tomorrow (Saturday, September 24, 2011) is National Hunting and Fishing Day, and as this auspicious day approaches, I ask myself “Why do I hunt?” I’ll limit my answer to why it matters to me. I’ll let the writings of others hunters speak for themselves. In Round River, Aldo Leopold talked conservatively about why hunting mattered to him. Teddy Roosevelt waxed manly about hunting in The Wilderness Hunter. Thoreau ran hot and cold on hunting in On Walden Pond and other works. If you haven’t read their words already, I suggest you do.
Hunting matters to me because I don’t want to be an outsider in the outside.
I was an enthusiastic bird-watcher, rock-climber, mountain-biker, and hiker. I joyfully watched and moved through the outdoors. Being outdoors made me happy. But before I hunted, I always felt just a bit apart from that world. I wanted in.
In my early twenties I picked up a firearm and entered the woods as a predator and I felt, for the first time, a participant in the outdoors. I became an active, engaged citizen of the forests, wetlands and mountains. I still pursue and love my non-hunting outdoor activities. But hunting is a qualitatively different activity, and I benefit from hunting in a fundamentally unique manner.
According to the last Survey, hunting contributed roughly $24 billion to our economy in 2006. Despite the fall in participation, hunting continues to serve as an economic and jobs powerhouse for our nation.
But that’s not why I hunt. I hunt because hunting makes me feel like a resident, a participating member of the outdoors.