North American hunters are a diverse group, coming from every race and profession. Hunting is egalitarian, for “red and yellow, black and white,” for “tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor,” for every race, creed and profession. It’s for every income level, for “rich man, poor man” alike. Hunting is not gender specific — it’s not a man’s sport any more than nursing is a woman’s profession.
Yet hunters are only about 5% of the population, and that makes hunters a minority. Many people in the 95% know little about why we hunt and the benefits hunting brings to wildlife. When talking to them, should we mind our own business? Should we follow the in-your-face debate model that is so common today? These methods are ineffective at best and create animosity and opposition at worst. Neither option will educate non-hunters, or benefit wildlife.
So how should we talk to non-hunters? We can’t ask them to sit for a lecture on the benefits of hunting, but they will mull over a few ideas if they are succinct, positive, easy to understand and presented by someone they trust. Every hunter should know at least a few points to make when the topic arises, and sometimes asking a question is a great way to make a point.
Leaving our listeners with a simple question or two can do more to get them think than loading them up with facts or marshalling long, detailed arguments. So be ready to ask one or two simple questions that leave non-hunters with something to think about. Here are three examples. One addresses the logic of hunting, one addresses an emotional issue about hunting, and one asks a practical question.
1. The logical question: Without hunters, how do animal populations limit themselves to the available habitat?
While it’s true that the bison of America’s Great Plains were hunted almost to extinction, and hunting did exterminate the passenger pigeon, that was before hunters began to regulate themselves with seasons, bag limits, and game laws. Regulated hunting has never threatened any species. Under modern wildlife management, wildlife is a renewable resource (which is why the word “harvest” can describe a hunter’s legal take). That means when a hunter kills an animal, the death of that animal does no harm to its species. A harvested animal simply makes room for natural replacement without the threat of overcrowding. The modern threat to wildlife is not hunting. The threat is habitat loss because every time man develops housing, roads, commercial and industrial sites we rob wildlife of a place to live.
2. The emotional question: Without man in the picture, is Mother Nature kind, or cruel?
An animal that dies quickly makes better eating, and hunters do not want to chase a wounded animal over hill and dale. Mother Nature is the cruel one. While a few animals do suffer unavoidably at the hands of hunters, every animal that dies at the teeth and claws of a wild predator suffers greatly. Often, they are eaten alive. Many animals get injured, and are taken advantage of even by their own species. Sometimes wild animals starve or succumb to diseases that cannot be treated. Wildlife almost never dies peacefully and quietly. They usually die a cruel and brutal death. Human hunters, by comparison, are far more humane.
3. The practical question: How do you support wildlife?
Warm feelings toward wildlife is not support for wildlife. It takes funding, and few people know that hunters fund the lion’s share of wildlife management. Every dollar a hunter spends to benefit a hunted species also benefits every species that shares its habitat. Hunting license dollars support the management goals of state wildlife agencies. The equipment hunters buy is taxed and the revenue is distributed to each state based on the number of hunting licenses sold in the state. Hunters create wildlife conservation organizations to contribute even more dollars for the creation and maintenance of wildlife habitat and scientific research for all species. Non-hunters do little by comparison.
All of this means hunters perform a service for everyone. That’s the bigger point we need to make when discussing hunting with non-hunters.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting , he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.