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How Do You Represent Hunting?

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You are our sport's best ambassador

Summer is here and I’m ready for it to quickly fade into fall with cooler temperatures, football, and of course, hunting season. By the end of this month some hunting seasons will have started and those hunters lucky enough to bag a critter will be showing off their trophies.

Times have changed when it comes to bragging about one’s successes afield.  With digital cameras, social media, and ever expanding connectivity through the internet we are almost instantly notified of our friends’ and family’s adventures, with hunting being no different. Pictures hanging in the local gas station of our quarry along with postings on social media like Facebook pages seem to be growing in popularity. On the flip side, more traditional news sources like the Bonner County Daily Bee seem to have deleted the hunting success stories from print. Wildlife stories in general, unless they are sensational or attention grabbing, rarely make the newspaper anymore.

So who are the agents, the diplomats, and the ambassadors, if you will, for hunting these days? You, the average hunter across North America are collectively; you are the liaison between those who hunt and the rest of the non-hunting parts of society. Each one of us paints a picture through our actions about hunting and how it’s perceived in our communities and country. How you act in the woods, how you treat your animal during and after the kill, and the bragging all affect everybody in some fashion.  Think it doesn’t matter what people think about hunting? You are dead wrong. If you think along the lines of “this is ‘Merica damn it, I can do what I want and I’ll shove it in their face,” then you are doing a great disservice to the hunting community and hunting alike. 

 We are connected more so these days than we care to even fathom. Take Facebook for example; you might think that when you post a picture of your elk that it’s just for your friends to see, but their friends see it, and your spouse’s friends see it and so own and so forth. Think before you post something, “will this negatively impact the sport of hunting?”

American hunters, not anti-hunters, hold the key to perceptions of hunting.  Only 17 percent of the American population is against hunting and most of those people oppose hunting for moral reasons. Approximately 75 percent of the American population supports hunting and think it’s important for wildlife management, a great source of local clean meat, and a healthy outdoor activity.  The interesting point is that only about 10 percent of the US population actually hunts; of course, in Idaho that’s much higher, somewhere around 35 percent. 

I threw a lot of numbers at you, so what does that all mean? In a nut shell, there are a lot of folks in Idaho, and the rest of the states, that support hunting but don’t participate in any hunting activity.  Those folks are watching and listening to how hunters act and are constantly reevaluating their perspectives according to their experiences.  Do you still think that you should “shove it in their face” when they disagree or are offended?  

Of course, there’s the 17 percent of the population that will never change their minds because of moral concerns. Fine, that’s their right and of course there is a small percentage of that population who like to shove it in your face about how hunting is wrong.  Take the higher road, and those looking in on the hunting community with be pleasantly surprised by your behavior.

American society is urbanizing at an alarming rate. We have been slowly moving that way since the 1800s but since the 1950s we have seen a 35 percent increase in the population living in a city setting. Presently 80 percent of our population now lives in urban areas!  Attitudes and trends change with that urbanization; some people think of hunting as barbaric while they go buy their meat from a grocery store. Their education on the natural world comes from shows like the Animal Planet and National Geographic. A good number of those people don’t hunt but still remember where they came from and have grandparents who hunted, relying on that meat to feed their families.  They still support hunting but that may slowly disappear as they get further disconnected from the natural world and her processes. Remember those people when you post the next photo on Facebook with you and your buddy’s deer stacked up in the back of the truck. Or think about the negative perception when you leave your elk in the back of the truck for everybody to see at the Cabinet Mountain Bar while you slam down a few drinks. Yeah, your buddies appreciate it, but what about that 65 percent of the Idaho population that doesn’t hunt, but supports hunting? Are they still going to support hunting when they see that? 

So you say you still don’t really care because hunting, fishing, and trapping have become a constitutionally protected activity in Idaho.  It can just as easily be removed as fast as it was ratified; think about the future with your present actions.

When we go to work we represent the outfit we work for and our supervisors ask that we do so with a positive image.  Whether you wear a uniform or have a company logo on the side of your vehicle, everybody knows who you work for, especially in small communities.  The same is true for hunters; everybody knows if you are a hunter, so be a positive representative for not only the hunting community but the non-hunting community as well. 

The Father of Conservation, Theodore Roosevelt, was quoted as saying “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” As hunters, please work hard at being a positive agent for hunting; the puffy chest approach feels good, but does no good.

Leave No Child Inside . . .and teach them to be a positive hunting ambassador for the future.

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Author info

Matt Haag Matt Haag is an Idaho Fish and Game Conservation Officer.

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The Game Trail

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