Along The Trail 7-7-16

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Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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While sitting in traffic on U.S. 50, a car with a couple of younger ladies slowly passed by and gave me an obvious dirty look and the passenger then flashed me the universal sign of her middle finger.

“What the???” went through my head. “Did I cut them off in traffic? Pull out in front of them”, I wandered to myself. As luck would have it, I caught up to them at the next traffic light and just as I pulled next to them and the light turned green, one of the gals yelled “Hunting is for blank/bleep/expletive!”

Ah, so that explains it!

The bumper sticker on my truck reads ‘THANK A HUNTER FOR YOUR WILDLIFE’. Apparently the young gals in the car with loud exhaust belching blue smoke, the back window covered in peace, love and happiness stickers and a Feel the Bern decal didn’t take kindly to me voicing my opinion about hunting and wildlife through my bumper display. I’m sure they were both experts on wildlife management, conservation and saving the environment.

But, I thought about these ladies and their reaction to my lifestyle and just how far removed we have become from our past.

How far removed we’ve become from being tied to the land and the outdoors.

How quickly the rural sorts of lifestyles are slipping away.

I’m sure these young women have no clue that hunters contribute more, millions if not billions of dollars towards wildlife conservation than any other group in America. Through the Pittman/Robertson Act, an excise tax of 11-percent is added onto the sale of sporting arms, ammunition, archery gear and other hunting related items. That federal tax is then distributed to state departments of natural resources and fish and game agencies for management and conservation of wildlife and wild places. All wildlife, not just game species benefit from those funds.

Annually, those tax dollars generate hundreds of millions of dollars for wildlife. Add to those dollars the monies collected from the sale of hunting licenses, permits and hunting stamps and an additional hundred million dollars are collected each year and put back into the mix of conservation, land reclamation and wildlife management. Just one example of how these sorts of funds are used each year are the millions of acres purchased and saved for waterfowl habitat each year. But those lands don’t just benefit waterfowl, but all species of animals, birds and fish that call those places home and they add intrinsic value to our lives as well.

It doesn’t take much digging to find out who or what group actually does contribute the most financially to wildlife conservation. I know many people won’t or don’t believe it, but hunters contribute more than every other conservation group combined. Now the argument folks use against hunting or hunters is that we contribute because we are self serving and there is a bit of truth to that. The fact is, if there isn’t a healthy game population to hunt, you won’t have hunters, so in that sense, yes we want thriving numbers of game species.

But, hunting is about so much more than bringing home your prey and only maintaining game animals. I’ve tried and struggled over the years of this weekly column to explain why I hunt and the best answer I can come up with is this – I am a hunter. Hunting connects me to the animals and the natural world we have left like nothing else. Some people are singers, some travelers, some painters, some are gifted speakers or musicians.

But something in my soul, in my DNA has made me a hunter.

I know not everyone is a hunter or even in favor of hunting and that’s okay. In fact, I don’t want everyone to hunt. It’s not something to be taken lightly or half hearted. But, what I do want is for the public to understand exactly what hunters, true ethical, responsible hunters do and the role they play in conservation. So, if you enjoy birding, seeing wildlife or enjoy our country’s public lands, stop to think about how most of these places and the management is paid for and if you do get a chance, thank a hunter.

– David Hewitt