Along The Trail 3-23-17

47

Over the last several years, I’ve had the privilege of being able to share my love of the outdoors and hunting with the readers of our local paper. In doing so, I’ve always tried to convey as best as I could how important I believe nature is and how it is up to us to be good stewards of the land.

As a hunter, I feel it is even more important for us to be respectful of our natural resources. We are the eyes, ears and the first line of defense when it comes to conservation. We as a group must hold ourselves to a higher standard, especially in these uncertain times when our country seems to be divided along so many lines, not just politically, but also rural versus urban, hunting against ant-hunting.

Often, I’ve written about my choice in hunting equipment and style…Traditional archery gear is typically more simple, more low key, more challenging. It places a high emphasis on woodsmanship and skill and it’s fraught with difficulty and more often than not, failure. It’s in those failures that I learn and grow as an outdoorsman and as a deer hunter and when success does come, it makes it all the more sweet. I sincerely believe that hunting and all that surrounds it is a very personal choice that should be undertaken without flash and fanfare.

But, just because I’ve chosen to hunt by the method I do doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with other folks choices and means. As long as it’s legal, ethical and moral, it’s fine by me. I might not agree with every method out there of taking a game animal, but as long as you stick within the rules and regulations of the game, you’re good in my book.

Last week, two relatively local gents from Bedford, Kentucky were convicted of serious poaching crimes in the state of Wyoming. Their convictions resulted from a multi state investigation in 2014 that involved the illegal taking of two bull elk and an antelope buck and trespassing on private property. What’s nearly as bad, is that both of these guys attempted to do the same thing in 2013! Once the investigation was over and the dust cleared, the men racked up over $30,000 in fines and restitution. Along with the monetary loss, both of them have lost their hunting and trapping privileges for 15 years.

What makes this poaching story worse is that the two “hunters” were being filmed for an outdoor television show. These two were lesser known “celebrity” hunters trying to make their names in the outdoor industry and their exploits were broadcast out to a nationwide audience on a well known outdoor television network. Of course through creative editing, it would be difficult to tell from the television show that these guys had violated game laws, but one savvy viewer noticed that things didn’t add up.

That viewer then contacted the Wyoming Fish and Game Department and got the ball rolling and the rest is history.

This incident is a perfect example of “hunters” not being good stewards of our resources and in fact, making every law abiding, well intended hunter look bad in the public’s eye. I have railed about my disdain for the outdoor industry over the years and the constant push to “sell, sell, sell” at all costs.

Sadly, the hunting public has bought into this marketing technique. These hunters turned poachers are participants in that same system. The investigation revealed that these clowns were driven to get kill shot footage of mature elk due to pressures from the “industry” – the more exciting the shot, the more dramatic footage, the more bang for the buck the sponsors of the show get.

It’s all about money and selling air time. It’s the commercialization of hunting and the outdoors and it makes me sick and sad.

These guys aren’t alone.

There have been several who’s who in the hunting world that have been brought down by the pressure to perform in hunting scenarios in front of the camera to sell more products and gimmicks. The true meaning of hunting, the respect for the land and the animals we pursue is being sold to the slickest commercial and the highest bidder and the latest, greatest in gear. As long as the hunting community continues to buy into this model, we’ll see more of these kinds of stories. This is not hunting, plain and simple.

– David Hewitt