A Necessary Conversation

A Necessary Conversation

I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to the gentleman as he moved over to where a few of us were standing and reminiscing. When he came in, he couldn’t help but notice some of the taxidermy hanging on my walls. I could tell he was taken aback from the display.

 

The conversation moved along. At the lull that occurs in most conversations, he asked nonchalantly, “Do you enjoy killing all of these animals?” as he waved his arm pointing to the different displays. I knew my response needed to be calculating and non-confrontational.

The more we spend hunting them, the more they are protected.

I could feel the eyes of others staring at me waiting for my response. Clearing my throat, I said confidently, “I do enjoy hunting these animals. The pursuit of game in the beauty of God’s creation is something I cherish. Whether I kill them or not is not the point, but the hunt, the pursuit, matching wits with these animals. That is what draws me into the wilds to hunt.

Then why not just take a picture? Why kill them?” The question has been asked of me hundreds of times, and every time I try to answer it, I hope I am doing it justice. Taking this conversation and keeping it civil can be challenging. Someone who is opposed to hunting already has his mind closed, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to open their minds to the science and conservation behind the taking of game. Yet, each time I am in this situation, I use this platform. No matter how brief the conversation is, I try to educate, if not inspire, the other person.

Every dollar I spend for hunting is taxed to ensure there are funds available to maintain and restore species.

I explain that it seems ironic, but hunting and taking of game animals actually saves species from extinction. Every dollar I spend for hunting is taxed to ensure there are funds available to maintain and restore species.

Hunters spend billions of dollars annually on equipment, guns, bows, arrows and ammunition, and every piece is taxed through the Pittman-Robertson Act, a rate of 11%, and that money is distributed to states and agencies to spend to protect and restore wildlife. Photographers don’t contribute, bird watchers don’t contribute, hikers or backpackers do not contribute to saving animals. Only hunters or others who purchase guns, ammunition, bows, arrows and accessories contribute to pay for the protection of these species and others.

The fact of the matter is that dollars impact wildlife a lot more than bullets do. The more we spend hunting them, the more they are protected. Prior to the introduction of the Pittman-Robertson Act, the whitetail deer, elk, black bear, many species of waterfowl, turkey and other game species were all but removed from the landscape. It is because hunters took the initiative to protect the resource that we have thriving populations of these animals today.

My guest’s follow-up question is predictable, as I have heard it countless times. “Surely there are better methods to control populations than killing them?

Not really,” I said. I went on to explain that millions of dollars have been spent trying other methods with poor results. Hunters funded the studies to repopulate the diminishing species, and hunters pay to keep these species at a sustainable level to allow hunting opportunities for generations to come.

When I look at these animals on my wall, I do not see a trophy deer. What I see is a cold, clear morning, and he is walking along the ridge, his breath rising in the cold air. I feel my heart beating so hard. I still cannot imagine that he didn’t hear it. I see hours of work going into providing food and water for him to grow and flourish, and I see a memory that is shared with countless people of the beauty of God’s creation,” I explain.

Hunters love animals so much they put their money where their mouth is and willingly pay taxes to take care of and protect the animals they love. No other group in American history has placed a tax on themselves to protect what they love. Some people may not have a full understanding of the benefits of hunting, but I take pride in knowing that I’m doing my part.

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Pete Rogers
Outdoor writer

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Statistics referenced from: Statista.com/
NPR.org