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 more attention than Paris Hilton in a prison cell. Everyone is all about “saving” the environment, and we’re all aware of the 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 the earth.
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 the desire 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 pistons that drive the conservation engine. If you take hunting and fishing out of the equation, the whole (wildlife management) effort collapses.”
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 fishing conservation 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? Why do 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 somehow experiencing the natural world. But hunters and fishermen possess a deep and intense connection with our world that goes 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 the essence of being, the essence of life and meaning.
Continues Mahoney, “Hunting is an immersion; a drowning in connectedness that squanders pride and privilege; the true hunter is the humble man, the enthralled child, and the knowing prince… Hunting is a cataclysm of inward progress. We hunt for spiritual reasons; we hunt to find inner peace; we hunt to understand the world…The true hunter is both the alert and meditative man. Thought and action combined in purpose; a hymn for the unity of world 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 reconnects 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 have been and still are, by far, the foremost conservationists of 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?”
Trevor Sides writes for American Hunting Club Live, the first hunting video broadcast site on the web. Learn from and/or broadcast your own hunting tips and hunting videos. American Hunting Club Live takes the YouTube format for hunters to another level. Hosted by world-class athlete and Olympic Gold Medalist Casey FitzRandolph, we offer high-quality full-screen video for our members. What are you waiting for? Visit your video broadcast site now.