Sports A Field

Image is Everything

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A new initiative aims to help hunters put their best foot forward.

The headline caught my eye right away when it came over my Facebook feed: “I Hunt, So @#&! Off!” Yeah, I had to read that one. It was an excellent short essay put out by the Boone and Crockett Club (B&C) pointing out why that’s really not a good response when someone questions or criticizes you for being a hunter—tempting as it might be to say it. We hunters tend to be independent cusses who would prefer not to deal with people who don’t get what we do. Unfortunately, that all-too-common attitude is not helping our cause one bit.

The essay is part of a new initiative by B&C called “Hunt Right—Hunt Fair Chase.” It’s a series of well-written pieces examining hunters’ image, ethics, and the history and meaning of fair chase. The initiative is meant to spark thoughtful discourse among hunters about how we present ourselves to the world at large. Granted, “thoughtful discourse” tends to be in short supply in the internet world and especially on social media these days, but B&C is doing an excellent job of helping hunters think about our image and how we can put our best foot forward. I urge you to check it out for yourself at www.huntfairchase.com.

B&C may be best known for its record book, but its founders were also the original creators and arbiters of the fair chase ethic, and the organization continues to promote and uphold these high standards. Judging from the comments on some of its posts, some fear that discussing ethical questions will lead to “dividing” hunters. I don’t believe that is the case. As the saying goes, we are all in the same boat, but if someone in the boat is shooting holes in the bottom… well, the whole thing is going to sink.

This effort is particularly timely in light of the preliminary results of the 2016 National Survey of Hunting, Fishing, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, which have just been released. Hunter numbers are not getting any stronger. The survey showed that a mere 5 percent of the U.S. adult population went hunting in 2016. Hunting participation actually decreased 16 percent between 2011 and 2016, a number the survey stresses is “not statistically significant,” but it’s certainly not good news, either.

Many hunters don’t seem to realize it, or don’t want to, but hunting is a privilege, not a right. This is especially important to remember because we are such a minority, and we must respect the fact that it is a privilege if we want hunting to continue for the long haul.

Fortunately, we have a lot going for us. The vast majority of hunters are principled, ethical men and women who genuinely care about wildlife, habitat, conservation, and their fellow human beings. Hunting has been proven over and over to be a force for conservation and the best way to maintain healthy wildlife populations. But all that won’t matter if we can’t get the general public to see hunting as a force for good.

Of course, we’re never going to convince virulent anti-hunters that hunting and hunters are anything but evil, and it’s pointless even to try. But they’re not the ones we need to talk to. The vast majority of people in the world today are not hunters, but they don’t necessarily have a problem with it. They need to see hunters in their true light—fine, upstanding people who follow the laws and hold themselves to a high ethical standard. We grumble that the media won’t show us that way, but if they won’t, we have to lead by our actions, tell our own story, and tell it right.

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