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And So There Are Hunters – Kristen Black

When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” –Aldo Leopold, Father of Conservation

And so there were hunters.

 Man looked around at the destruction his kind had caused to the land and the animals in his greed and he thought What can I do? And conservation was born. From guilt came repentance, from regret came responsibility, and from hindsight came foresight.

Man said we need someone who will protect the land and the waterways and those that dwell on and in them, for they bring life and happiness and adventure.
And so there were hunters.

Man said we need someone who will listen to the tallest mountains and the deepest oceans for the secrets they hold and not challenge them with foolish pride.
And so there were hunters.

Man said we need someone who will willingly become one with nature in order to fairly pursue game and feed from the land and water, absorbing the pureness of it.
And so there were hunters.

Man said we need someone who will honor the game they take by respecting the kill and using every part of the animal, appreciating the life it gave to sustain him.
And so there were hunters.

Man said we need someone who will be fair and gentle enough to leave a spotted fawn where it lies hidden in the forest, but strong and skilled enough to take a life quickly and painlessly.
And so there were hunters.

Man said we need someone who will look out for the parts of this world that weren’t given voices, someone who will speak for those parts honestly and justly, someone who will give back to the land monetarily or physically or some other way to protect it and conserve it for generations to come. Because the brooks do babble and the trees do whisper and the wind does whistle over grasslands but unless there is someone to not only hear them, but really listen, all the good things about this world will cease to exist and all will be grossly quiet.

And so there are hunters.

There’s a stigma to hunting that we are all a bunch of camo-wearing gun-waving, truck-driving, beer-drinking, rednecks. Normally I would say they are entitled to their own opinions but it is so important, especially now, that non-hunters do not latch onto this idea and become anti-hunters. I didn’t realize just how important it was until I attended the Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow Workshop (CLfT) at the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in January. Bob Byrne, CLfT charter member and leader of this session, started off the week by asking us all to draw what we thought of when the word “hunter” came up in a conversation. To my surprise, I was one of two students who did not draw the stereotypical redneck with a deer strapped to the hood of his car, shooting bullets wildly into the air, crushed beer cans at his feet, or some semblance of these things all rolled into one. I was slightly horrified, especially after hearing that some of my peers had parents who were hunters. Then the instructors shared their drawings which were made of happy memories of their childhoods and their kids and grandkids, all making memories and spending time with family. That’s when I knew it would be a good week.

I’ve never been as tired and sore as I was when that week was over. We discussed controversial issues in the classroom, attempted stalking in the woods, watched a Treeing Feist run squirrels, experienced the kick of a shotgun, and learned more than I ever thought possible. I wish I could share every bit of my experience there but there are just not enough words.

I will elaborate on one discussion topic that was particularly interesting: ethics of hunting. Everyone has their own moral compass, laws they live by – personal and governmental. But what I had never thought about is the fact that something can be perfectly legal but completely unethical. One example given was shooting ducks on a lake. Sure, you can shoot a “sitting duck” but is it sportsmanlike? Is it fair chase? Not really. Some hunters might, but I would argue that that’s not really hunting, it’s shooting. And all the CLfT members struggled with this concept throughout the week and I’m sure they went home still contemplating the answer. The problem is that there is no easy answer. That’s the uniting concept between hunters, non-hunters, and anti-hunters: Ethics is in the mind of the beholder.

The point of all of this is to say that without conservation and conservationists, the natural world is in big trouble. Without hunters there is no money to go back toward conservation, and that is the sad truth of today’s society. Even though you may not agree with the practice of hunting, knowing the facts is essential before passing judgment. That’s where education becomes necessary and important. Programs like CLfT are crucial for this kind of enlightenment. There were 19 students at the session I attended. That doesn’t seem like much but if each student goes back and tells 5 friends or family members about the benefits of hunting, that’s almost 100 people who are at least a little more educated than before. The Conservation Revolution has just begun and we need people to spread the good news. And so there are hunters.

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