What do hunting and fishing have to do with conservation? Everything. Without the efforts of hunters and anglers, our wildlife and wild places would be in a state of trouble. Hunting and fishing are more than mere sports or pastimes, however, and are even more than a conservation effort. The meaning and significance of life and our humanity are embodied in archery, fishing and hunting.
It’s not easy being the “environment.” It receives moreattention than Paris Hilton in a prison cell. Everyone isall about “saving” the environment, and we’re all aware ofthe powerful cultural movement focused on living “green”and being “environmentally – friendly.”
Cultural elites and politicians tell us that if we ride our bikes more, take the bus, use different light bulbs, only then will we become truly “green” and a friend of theearth.
Yet changing our driving habits or riding our bikes simply isn’t practical or convenient. We care about our world but we feel left out in the cold, wondering, “What can I do to help? None of that other stuff is for me.”
Chances are, if you’re reading this you’re into archery, fishing and/or hunting. And if you’re a lover of archery,fishing or hunting – or all three – and if you have adesire to keep the “environment” in good working condition, just keep doing what you’re doing.
But if you’re on the fence about archery, fishing and hunting, keep an open mind and read on to find out why we do what we do.
Naturally (no pun intended), we in the archery, fishing and hunting world have a vested interest in keeping our planet’s resources and wildlife in top condition. As Canadian biologist and philosopher Shane Mahoney said, “Hunters and fishermen are the piston that drives the conservation engine. If you take hunting and fishing out of the equation, the whole (wildlife management) effortcollapses.”
So it’s no surprise that sportsmen – those involved in archery, fishing and hunting – provide over $1 billion annually towards conservation efforts. It’s no surprise that sportsmen have paid several billion dollars over the last 70-80 years on self-imposed excise taxes on firearms, ammunition and certain archery and fishing equipment.
It’s no surprise that through hunting and fishingconservation efforts, wildlife populations and habitats flourish. There are now over 18 million white-tailed deer in the U.S. when there used to be less than half-a- million around 1900. Today’s elk population is around 800,000 when in 1917 it was a mere 41,000.
And is it surprising that a handful of African nations are now using conservation-hunting methods to increase the populations of endangered animals like elephants and black and white rhinos? And is it surprising that the polar bear population in northern Canada has increased because of 30-some years of conservation-hunting?
For those of us actively engaged in archery,fishing and hunting, no, we are not surprised. But listing the many and wonderful benefits of archery, fishing and hunting doesn’t explain the “why” behind it all – especially to those on the fence about the issue. Why do we hunt? Whydo we fish? The answer rests in another kind of conservation – the conservation of meaning and humanity.
Many think that by changing driving habits and using renewable energy that we’re being “natural” or somehowexperiencing the natural world. But hunters and fishermen possess a deep and intense connection with our world thatgoes beyond any “green” campaign. Why? Because hunters and fishermen actually come into physical contact with the world; they don’t experience it through a screen in their living room. When was the last time you saw a politician or celebrity out in the wilderness hunting or fishing?
To quote Mahoney, “Hunting is a love affair.” It is the passionate interaction between two forces of the natural world – man and wild. The two come together to create theessence of being, the essence of life and meaning.
Continues Mahoney, “Hunting is an immersion; a drowning inconnectedness that squanders pride and privilege; the truehunter is the humble man, the enthralled child and theknowing prince… Hunting is a cataclysm of inwardprogress. We hunt for spiritual reasons; we hunt to findinner peace; we hunt to understand the world…The truehunter is both the alert and meditative man. Thoughtand action combined in purpose; a hymn for the unity ofworld and self.”
This may be a bit romantic for some of you, but hunting and fishing are much more than pastimes and even a conservation method. Hunting and fishing embody an intrinsic understanding of life. We conserve ourselves, as well as our world, through hunting, fishing and archery.
In a world where “reality” exists in an XBOX, archery,fishing and hunting reconnect us to what makes us human;to what makes life, in part, meaningful and purposeful.In the field, we experience sacrifice, life and passion.As Dr. Randall L. Eaton writes, “that is why hunters havebeen and still are, by far, the foremost conservationistsof wildlife and wild places, to the benefit of everyone.”
Over the last ten years, the number of adult hunters has dropped by nearly two million and the number of adult anglers has dropped more than five million. These declining numbers mean less money for the conservation of wildlife and wild places, but it also signifies the continuing distance we put between ourselves and the natural world.
So as you sit at your computer, ask yourself, “Why do I love archery, fishing and hunting?” And if you’re not into archery, fishing and hunting, ask yourself, “Why am I not a lover of archery, fishing and hunting?”