Independence Day (July 4th, 1776) is best described by David L. Waldstreicher as “... the end of monarchy and tyranny and the rebirth of liberty.” Our declared liberty reaches every part of our lives: from the land we fought for to our personal identity. We celebrate Independence Day to remind us how our country came to be and to express our freedoms with family, friends, and our community. One of the liberties that we enjoy, hunting, has been a part of American culture for generations.
Hunting, as an aspect of the American experience, has been under threat throughout these past few years.
An observation from the article, Decline In Hunters Threatens How U.S. Pays For Conservation:
“In 1992, Tom Heberlein, a rural sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, made a bold prediction: If sociological trends, like increasing urbanization, smaller family sizes, and growing anti-hunting sentiment continued, the sport of hunting – as Wisconsinites knew it – could be extinct by the year 2050.” (Rott).
By these terms, it seems that the danger for the hunting tradition is imminent. After all, 2050 is not so far away. We need to consider the necessary steps to preserve the hunting tradition. But what are these steps, and how do we spread awareness for this hunting decline? For those that are outside of the hunting community, we need to answer different questions: What makes hunting so important? Why should hunting and its lifestyle be preserved today?
An important fact to remember is that hunters provide a direct ecological service to both the environment and the populations they hunt. They do this by helping to manage wildlife populations in suburban areas and on public lands. Despite the perception of some laymen, a hunter’s goal is not to kill whatever moves in the wild, but to evaluate the conditions of the animals within the environment. This includes looking at an animal’s age, gender, and overall health. Without hunters and wildlife management efforts “… a white-tailed deer herd can double in size in only two years, quickly deplete available food supplies and face certain mass die-offs.” (NSSF).
Sickly herds are a danger to populated areas, both human and animal. Hunters help in reporting disease and identifying herd behavior. If these herds aren’t monitored and culled when needed, they may do lasting damage to local ecosystems. Typically a hunter scouts and monitors an area for an extended period of time to aim at an older buck. According to the Department of the Interior, “As practiced on refugees, hunting and fishing does not pose a threat to the wildlife populations, and in some instances, are actually necessary for sound wildlife management.” (DOI)
In addition, hunters help to fund wildlife conservation efforts. Hunters must maintain up-to-date tags and licenses, and this cost, along with the payment of excise taxes on gear, channels money directly into the preservation and maintenance of the American wilderness. According to PERC, “Nearly 60 percent of their funding comes from sources related to hunting and fishing...” (Watkins).
With these funding efforts and fees, not only is it impractical to charge more to the hunter or fisherman, it could end up being harmful to the community as a whole. We could potentially see activities like bird watching, camping, hiking, and other outdoor leisures become more costly. Therefore, it’s important to ask, “Is the greater public willing to pay more to protect wildlife?” (Rott). Some may argue in favor; however, it is unlikely that the mass public would be willing to pay more to continue enjoying these liberties.
Would it become more cost-effective to preserve our hunting heritage?
A possible solution to this problem is to preserve our hunting heritage by educating the next generation. Not only the next generation of hunters but the next generation as a whole. Life skills, like hunting, should be taught in the public and private education system and, according to Samsara Chapman, such programs would help, “young hunters...learn that hunting is a year-round activity, not a two- or three-month hobby.” Providing these kinds of lessons to older generations that have not lived this lifestyle may also be beneficial to preserving hunting as a whole. These hunter education programs would provide an opportunity for young people to gain valuable life skills and contribute to wildlife conservation.
Overall, hunting is a conservation effort that requires skill, communication, and education. We recommend reading about the many organizations that affect the industry and for you to participate in preserving our hunting heritage.
Contributors: Kevin Warstadt & Sanclara Daigle
Chapman, Samsara. “The Importance of the Hunter Education Program to the Development of Ethical Literacy Among the Hunting Community.” The Institute for Applied & Professional Ethics, Ohio University, 27 July 2009, www.ohio.edu/ethics/2001-conferences/the-importance-of-the-hunter-education-program-to-the-development-of-ethical-literacy-among-the-hunting-community/index.html
DOI. “Hunting and Fishing on National Parks and Fish and Wildlife Refuges.” U.S. Department of the Interior, 27 Aug. 2019, www.doi.gov/blog/hunting-and-fishing-national-parks-and-fish-and-wildlife-refuges#:~:text=A%20total%20of%2051%2C097%2C000%20acres,the%20National%20Park%20Service%20system
NSSF. “The Hunter And Conservation.” National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc., National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc., 2017, https://www3.nssf.org/share/PDF/safety/Hunter_Cons.pdf.
NSSF. “What They Say About Hunting” National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc., National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc., 2017, https://www3.nssf.org/share/PDF/safety/WTSAH.pdf
Rott, Nathan. “Decline In Hunters Threatens How U.S. Pays For Conservation.” NPR, NPR, 20 Mar. 2018, www.npr.org/2018/03/20/593001800/decline-in-hunters-threatens-how-u-s-pays-for-conservation.
Waldstreicher, David L.. "Independence Day". Encyclopedia Britannica, 10 Sep. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Independence-Day-United-States-holiday. Accessed 23 April 2021.
Watkins, Tate. “How We Pay To Play: Funding Outdoor Recreation On Public Lands In The 21st Century.” Property and Environment Research Center, Property and Environment Research Center, May 2019, www.perc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/how-we-pay-to-play.pdf.