An Open Letter to the Anti-Hunter

If you don’t approve of hunting, for whatever reason, I want you to know I appreciate you taking a minute to read this letter. My intention is to offer a couple facts about hunting you may not know. I don’t expect to change your mind altogether, but I do hope to provide some information that may create a more informed conversation.

You’re right. Our civilization has changed such that many people no longer need to directly participate in the food chain. Cities of us can go to grocery stores for the food we once grew or killed for ourselves. So, why then does hunting still matter?

You’re right. All living things have value. Animal lives matter, and that’s all animals, not just the one whose hair is stuck to your shirt right now. If that’s true, how can someone argue killing an animal is not only justified but important?

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The on-going debate surrounding the value and ethics of hunting litters our news feeds and newspapers, often serving to divide those that hunt from those that don’t. I hunt. If that divides me from you, we need to talk, because it’s possible the very reason you oppose hunting may be among the most important reasons to support hunting.

The biosystems of our planet are under attack, and humans are largely to blame. Earth is experiencing record high average temperatures each year, and humans are devastating natural habitat on all continents at record pace. So, what are the facts about hunting? If they were better understood, could all people who love animals, and all people who care about the health of our planet find common ground?  

Annually, over 13 million people hunt, nearly 40 million people fish, and more than 40 million people target shoot. The only emotion-based fact I’ll present in this letter is the following: hunting is a way of life for a lot of people. Most are ethical, well-meaning people. Some are not, just like any other cross-section of humanity. I started with this, because we’re already at an impasse if we can’t agree here. I’m an example of a hunter, so I’ll speak for myself. Many of my most cherished memories are times when I’ve been hunting. Hunting and fishing are a part of who I am, part of the way I look at the world, and part of my value system. Hunting doesn’t define me, no more than does being a Bernie Sanders voter, or homosexual, or Muslim define someone else. But hunting is absolutely part of my identity. There is literally nothing anyone can say to make me change that. Can we agree hunting is important to lots of people like me?

Okay, enough of the feely stuff.

Wildlife and wild lands are owned by the public, as prescribed by the Public Trust Doctrine. Each state has a fish and wildlife agency, which was given the responsibility to manage all wildlife via what’s called the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Where success is measured by the proliferation of wild animals, this model of wildlife management is among the most effective in the history of mankind. See, we humans are a highly invasive species. Every day we till up wildlife habitat to grow more food, to build more infrastructure, and to meld the natural world to fit our every whim. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is one of the only proven barriers standing between wild places and animals and their decimation. And its implementation is not cheap.

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Nearly every economic, social, and cultural trend is eating away at the prospect of wild animals thriving into the future. Except, perhaps ironically, hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. You’ve probably heard the argument, “hunters pay for conservation.” The extent to which this statement is true can be debated, but it is a fact that hunting plays a major role in conservation. Between 50-80% of all money spent on conservation in the United States, nearly three billion dollars, comes through one of three sources (in order of size): hunting/fishing license sales; excise taxes paid on hunting/fishing/recreational shooting gear; and donations to conservation non-profits. Hunting and fishing license sales are a pretty well understood concept. However, most people don’t know that sportsmen of generations past lobbied for and passed Pittman-Robertson (PR), the act that placed a tax on hunting and recreational shooting gear, then later Dingell-Johnson (DJ), the act that placed a tax on fishing gear. The funds from all three sources; licenses, donations, and excise taxes are used by your state fish and wildlife agency, as well as a myriad of non-government organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited, to do the work of managing wild places for wild animals.

Without PR/DJ, sustainability of our wild lands and wild things would face serious headwinds. One must have only a rudimentary understanding of economics to understand why. If left without protection and management, wild places would soon turn into farms, ranches, and housing developments. To fund that protection, some wild animals were given a “value,” quantified by the license fee paid to hunt or catch them. No true sportsman or woman would argue the value of a living thing can be quantified in dollars; it’s simply the only scalable way anyone on earth has come up with to ensure the necessary habitat exists to sustain all species. It’s a trade-off – kill some of the deer to make it economically viable to keep and manage the land on which all deer and most all other species live.

But, couldn’t we get conservation funding into the budgets of all levels of government; local, state, and federal?

The answer is probably yes, but the economics again tell a dooming story. Public lands, such as state recreation areas or national forests, are largely viewed as a sink on the tax base, especially in more developed or more agrarian areas of our country. No one pays property taxes on this land, and it’s more difficult to tie tax revenue back to it from tourism or other uses than it is to tax income from corn production on the same parcel. Thus, privatizing land for development or production is a strategy governmental entities use to increase their tax base. If you were a politician and your constituents were asking you to choose between health care for babies or keeping our public land public, what would you do? The debate over control of our public lands is a shining example of what will happen to our wild places when it’s time to sharpen the budget pencil.

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Some of the favorite non-profit organizations of anti-hunters have taken to buying land. An example is the Humane Society of the United States’ Wildlife Land Trust. The novice biologist  in me says, “great, more land for wild things.” But any wildlife biologist, for or against hunting, will tell you leaving land unmanaged is an untenable solution. Sure, it’s cheaper for the Wildlife Land Trust, but unmanaged land does little or nothing for wildlife. Nature used to do the management work for us. For thousands of years prairie habitat burned, invigorating successional habitat growth. Ignited by lightning, forest fires would burn until they simply went out. Today, firefighters feverishly dowse wildfires with chemicals and water in hopes of saving human life and assets. Ever been on a hike through a dense forest? Did you notice how animal diversity was most prolific outside of the most dense areas – perhaps where the forest opened up to a grassy area? Most woodland species are not adapted to compete in the most dense, unbroken forest cover. Just as most prairie species are not adapted to compete in the most dense, unbroken grassland areas.

The way I see it, it’s perfectly reasonable that you do not hunt. But, I want you to understand hunting plays a very serious role in the real-world conservation that sustains nearly all species of plant and animal on Earth.  All people are in a lifelong dogfight to preserve the living things that inhabit our planet, especially you and me… since I took the time to write this letter and you took the time to read it. The left and right, the greenies and oil barons, the anti and pro-hunters – we’re all bound to this watery rock and can only take from it so much before we endanger the wild animals and places in our way. Let’s stop arguing and get to work.

 

Sincerely,

Eric Dinger

Founder of Powderhook

About Powderhook: 

Powderhook is the outdoor help desk. With free maps and depth contours, thousands of events, plus the local scoop you can’t get anywhere else, a good day in the outdoors is only a download away no matter your experience level.

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23 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Anti-Hunter”

    1. Couldn’t have said it better my self. Most of the Antis have no idea what the Framers of our country and Constitution believed regarding hunting irregardless of its necessity for food at the time.

    2. Way to go Eric I couldn’t of said it any better. We also do not want to forget it was the hunter that brought many species back from brink of extinction game and nongame species and saving much of habitat from destruction

  1. I like the commentary, but still feel dismayed by so much of what the “outdoors community” has become. I grew up hunting deer, the sport has become unattainable where I live now through increasing land costs and ridiculous lease rates. The appeal to non-hunters has merit ( my degree in wildlife managment will attest to that), but what of us who would support you but for the fact that hunting has become “big bucks or bust” , or blind faith in the NRA, for so much of its public perception. I really wish environmentalists and sportsmen could find common ground, but the vitriol espoused by each seems to make any such union an unattainable fantasy.

    1. Matt,

      Man, you’re so right. In the UK hunting is called “The Sport of Kings” for the exact reasons you pointed out. Our mission statement here at Powderhook is “access for all” which means to me no matter who you are – your race, your age, your gender, your income level – you should be able to enjoy a good day outdoors in our great country. Almost everything we do amounts to fighting the trends you’re talking about. Sure, we promote leasing and guided hunts, because many people are looking for that type of thing. For those people a lease or guided hunt is access. But, we’ve also invested heavily in our free public lands map, and we advocate loudly that hunting can’t continue on the same path to “only the wealthy can hunt” here in the United States, or the management model we’ve used for around 100 years will no longer work. We need more people going more often, or all wild animals are in trouble. Any ideas on how to get that message to masses?

      Eric

    2. Eric,

      Very well stated.

      Matt, this point you make is inevitable. Look at Europe and hunting. This makes our publica land conservation that much more important. If it weren’t for that and outfitters where would we hunt. Its a double edged sword, without drawing more people to hunting we don’t expand conservation idealogy throught hunting but as we expand it we drive its costs up along with making places to hunt more difficult to find

  2. Great writing!

    The only addition I would recommend is furthering the connection between license sales and taxes to the management of public land. Call out that portions of this money go to protecting the land that non-hunters hike on, camp on, ride their bikes, etc. Make those personal touch points to THEIR interests specifically, to show that hunters and anglers are largely to thank for what they get to do on the same land, without a user-pay model. Mentioning that model may be handing the anti’s free bullets against us for future attacks.. I’ll leave that up to the consideration of others.

    1. Matt,

      Good idea. How would you recommend agencies “call out” to non-hunters- the campers, hikers, bikers you mention? Perhaps something on their park permit? “This park managed through investments from hunters and anglers.” Maybe that type of thing? Getting this message out is something many people in our industry are talking about. How to do that has been the hard part. Our message is fact-based and much less emotional to non-hunters. The emotion of hunting is something hunters feel. Non-hunters aren’t tied to that emotion in the same way. Any ideas on how to make our message more emotion-invoking?

      Eric

      1. Eric,

        Fair follow up questions. The park pass idea would be very valuable and I love the thought of it, though with recent media such as ‘cecil gate’ and now spear hunting, I feel it would take more cooperation from your mentioned agencies than what they are willing to give at this time.

        I’m fortunate enough to take part in a county level program to control local park deer populations, and have been doing so for 7 years now. Each year we are requested to avoid being seen at all costs and to take measures to avoid the program becoming noticed by the larger public. I don’t feel the support for a park pass shout-out would be present currently and unfortunately.

        However, with public awareness being the goal, I see it as a great investment at small local levels or even larger levels for outdoor organizations to begin sponsoring small projects with the public in mind, not just hunters, in alternative forms of your park pass idea. Perhaps we could not pull off the pass, but I’m sure we’ve all seen trees and benches placed in someone’s honor. What if organizations began creating or more heavily sponsoring small things like butterfly gardens, hiking trails, learning centers, playgrounds, planting oak or forage trees, benches or bike paths? All of these could be accompanied with similar signs or plaques stating what organization and individuals are responsible and could even throw off a few facts. Use landscaping stones or boulders with images of deer, fish or an organization logo to peak interest to the object/sign and send the message home. This would create small but meaningful impact on the public in quite the same fashion.

        As for making a more emotional connection, you’re correct it can’t be done the way it would be through hunter vs hunter communication. Again I would stress the importance and hard facts of hunting today and draw connections to their interests to show benefits:
        – Hunting protects biomes, reduces car collisions and prevents heavy animal vs animal competition
        -Meat can be donated to feed the hungry programs and provides X meals annually
        -The meat is organic and sustainably sourced thanks to government regulations. Rather than buy meat at a store, some people make the life/health choice to provide organic meat for their families.

        Etc etc. These facts I feel are the important ones to address with the nonhunting audience. The organic and sustainability argument, with current trends, I feel is even strong enough to use against the anti hunting crowd. If any of these ring true with the neutral viewer or their values, you’ll have your emotional connection.

        -Matt Hoffmann

        1. Matt –

          Great thoughts. I think food is among the best arguments for hunting to a non-hunter (as you said). Do you think the organic, free-range, healthy, know-the-source argument works with anti-hunters? I’m honestly don’t know. I don’t get many opportunities to really engage in this conversation with anti-hunters.

          Eric

  3. Thank you for taking the time to write this rather long letter and explaining the need for us hunters!
    It is in our blood and passed on to our children if they like to participate, not forced.
    I wish I would have gotten some time with my Father to go hunting as he was a bird man(quail mainly)but he died before I got that chance due to an accident.
    I did get the chance to take my sons(3) and two of them still hunt. I also got to take sons and grands to Texas for hog hunt with the girls even enjoying that time we had together till early morning wake up came at least.
    I would like to put this on my Facebook timeline but wanted to OK it with you first!

  4. Well done! My only concern is you state we are in a global warming trend. Yes humanity is affecting the landscape. If you look at the real GLOBAL temperature data, not the manipulated data, we are actually in a cooling trend.

    1. Pete,

      I’m not smart enough to know whose data is right and wrong on the global warming front. There’s no question global warming has become a big business. I guess where I fall on the topic is this: people are wasteful of resources, both natural and manmade. As a conservationist I believe we should advocate that we do better. Recycling, clean energy, etc. are things that really fit my beliefs as a conservationist more than they fit my political beliefs. I don’t know if our behavior is affecting climate change, but I know the words waste and conserve are opposites. I think this is a place where the green and conservation movements should be aligned.

      Thoughts?

      Eric

  5. Nice article! However, I feel like you could have touched on the natural predator topic, maintaining the deer populations so they do not become so large that the food supply depletes and they begin to starve.

    And I agree 100% with your conservative beliefs! Reduce, reuse, recycle and renewable clean energies is what I would like everyone to advocate for.

    1. Hey Erik! It’s been a long time!

      In an unmolested ecosystem deer and predator populations would naturally ebb and flow. Some anti-hunters blame the absence of natural predators on hunting and trapping. The introduction and protection of wolves is a good example. I think the desire of anti-hunters to protect wolves comes back to their belief that hunters killed off the natural population of wolves in the first place (on top of the desire to eliminate hunting in general).

      Thoughts?

  6. Eric,

    Nice article! I agree with Erik’s comments on the natural predator decline and reality of scarcity of food for ever increasing populations of certain wildlife, such as White Tail Deer in Maryland. I’m from the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland. Coyote are very few in population, and there are no significant predators of deer in that area. There are still many State Parks and green areas for deer to roam and populate though, and thus the population of deer is vast. Without hunting, food scarcity is an issue despite the land. Deer often invade personal gardens on private land and destroy the efforts of the family trying to raise their own crops. In a single night, a garden can be destroyed. Food scarcity drives deer to find food wherever they can.

    But, an additional concern is property damage and human/deer death/injury by vehicle collisions. Maryland is not even in the Top 10 States for Vehicle/Deer collisions, but it is a problem. Automobiles are likely the main predator for deer in Maryland, and that does not come at cost. Lives are lost, people are injured, animals are killed, meat is wasted (unless you like roadkill), and millions of dollars are spent in property damages each year. Here’s just one of many articles I quickly found online: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/odds-of-striking-deer-high-in-maryland-virginia/2012/10/25/69f90f20-1e02-11e2-9cd5-b55c38388962_story.html

    Hunting is a controlled method to save game populations from starvation. And, hunting saves human lives and reduces damages to property by vehicle damages.

    Finally, hunting is Scriptural (and Scriptures supercede all the wacky notions and trends of societies that rise and fall, but Scripture is forever):
    Gen2:15 “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Mankind was assigned responsibility to care for the world. After Adam and Eve rebelled against God and were banished from Eden (fall of man), the world has not been in perfect harmony, as God designed it in Eden. But, we still have responsibility to care for the planet. And, hunting controls populations of game.

    Gen 9:2-3 “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.”
    After the flood, God specifically told Noah and his sons that animals were intended for food (this is why I hunt…to put food on the table for my family).

    Pro 12:27 “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, But diligence is man’s precious possession.” I’m not a sport hunter, I eat what I kill. Pro 12:27 seems to encourage this philosophy.

    Acts 10:12-13 “In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter had a vision from God with a central premise that God loves all men and wanted the Gospel to be spread to all men. The vision of animals was an illustration to help Peter understand this point. Jews considered certain animals unclean, but God makes a point that all things He created are permitted for eating and instructs Peter to kill and eat. So, Go, Hunt, and eat what you kill! 😉

    1. I’m a Christian, so I really appreciate your response. But, whether a person is Christian or not, I’ve found the Bible to be one of the greatest business books, nature books, family books, etc. I’ve ever read. It’s profoundly prescriptive even hundreds of years later.

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