By Karen Seginak
Reality shows that are anything but, totally contrived. Heavily biased public surveys and opinion polls with small sample sizes. Supermodels, celebrities and comedians considered authorities on topics they have no education in or firsthand experience with. Manipulatory maneuvers orchestrated to influence legislation by outright lies and fabrications. Exactly whose depiction of reality is really real these days?
Specifically, I am referring to the anti-hunting propaganda that pervades social media and much of the press currently. Scrolling through Facebook or a news feed, for instance, could conceivably convince a naïve person that hunting is no longer acceptable globally, is only an activity that mentally depraved people engage in, and should not be tolerated by anyone who is concerned about animals. However, how does the real world feel about it?
It’s perfectly understandable that urban dwellers, largely disconnected from nature, may not be able to understand or appreciate the utility, necessity, allure or significance of hunting. And the challenges that wildlife faces, most importantly the issue of habitat conversion due to human encroachment. We all are, after all, largely products of our environments. One can readily see how urbanites might view anything other than cities to be suitable wildlife habitat that is completely natural, even though that view is not entirely correct. It is essential that we acknowledge that not only may our personal worlds be vastly different from that of other people’s, but that the environments we occupy are under different constraints as well.
I live in, work in and prefer to travel on holiday into rural or remote areas. As such, I cannot fully appreciate nor feel qualified to legitimately criticize urban concerns such as availability of public transportation, proximity to restaurants, and creation of pedestrian friendly public spaces, for example. Yet, I am capable of acknowledging such concerns and needs without forcing my opinions, born of my very limited, disconnected perspective, upon urbanites. So why do folks who know so little about my world feel they can dictate what happens in it? Or feel that the 100 acre city park they are familiar with is a directly comparable model to 100 square miles of remote bush in Africa, for instance? Their suggestions that no one should ever hunt, anywhere, based upon their own everyday lives, is just as ludicrous and unrealistic as me suggesting that they should all be hunters and never rely on grocery stores. And their shameless manipulations wherein they attempt to convince potential followers and influence legislation by claiming that hunting is no longer acceptable is not only inaccurate and self-serving, but is capable of exactly the opposite of what they hope to accomplish. Harming wildlife instead of protecting it.
Where I live, in North Dakota, in the United States, not only am I a hunter, but so is my doctor, dentist, mailman, insurance agent, truck salesman, mechanic, supervisor, co-workers, propane delivery man, hay supplier, neighbors and the list goes on and on and on, continuing back many generations in a lot of cases. Hotels, gas stations and diners proudly display welcome hunters signs. Churches hold special breakfasts and prayers for hunters. Hunters pitch in and work on community projects, teach children in schools and hunter education programs, work on habitat projects on their own as well as public lands, pick up roadside garbage, donate venison to food banks, support local communities as visitors and even as seasonal occupants in homes they purchase as hunting cabins, and so much more. I firmly believe that in areas such as where I live, anti-hunters couldn’t even discern hunters out of a crowd because so many of us are hunters. We are surpassingly normal people, who accept and recognize hunting as a cherished, time honored part of our culture. We are not psychopathic, animal hating monsters that so many uninformed, self-serving people hope to make us out to be.
I suspect those who have so little direct involvement with wildlife, wildlands or even simply where their food comes from just absolutely cannot conceive of death as being a requisite of life. The only way they choose to view hunting is as an aberrant behavior that needs to be eliminated, mistakenly thinking that would be for the good of the animals. But nothing could be further from the truth. Hunting is normal. It is a part of nature, a part of our own evolution as a species, and an integral part of human cultures worldwide. Most who criticize hunting readily illustrate via their comments that they actually don’t even know what hunting really is. But they vehemently hate what they think it is, and all of us who hunt, for whom they think we are. And, they feel it is more important to hate hunters and hunting than it is to recognize the benefits of legal, well-regulated hunting, with the primary one being providing sustainable funding and interest in maintaining and enhancing habitat necessary for wildlife to remain on the landscape.
When we speak to each other, face to face, as fellow human beings who are directly accountable for our words, the truth tends to emerge more readily. Earlier this year, while traveling to and from two major hunting conventions here in the USA, I decided to do some informal “research” by noting how people not directly involved in the conventions perceived hunting. The airline ticket agents and TSA personnel who asked me where I was headed to all responded with – wow, a hunting convention! That sounds interesting. The uber drivers in the cities I went to remarked how they had so enjoyed transporting hunters as they had heard some fascinating stories about places and creatures they hardly even previously knew existed. A lady from a big city in California, who sat next to me on a flight, asked me to tell her more about what all takes place at hunting conventions. And then she told me she wished she could try hunting to more deeply experience nature. A young woman who taught at a college in Wisconsin struck up a conversation with me in line, as we waited to board a plane. She smiled as she told me she was teaching her children archery skills and was looking forward to spending time with them in the woods in bow season. Two older gentlemen in front of us then turned around, joined in on our conversation and proudly showed us photos of things they had enjoyed seeing while hunting – none of which were kill photos. An anthropologist whom I met regaled me with tales of her travels globally, where every culture she studied hunted and also kept trophies of various sorts of their kills. And she emphasized the importance of recognizing and respecting that all cultures are not the same as our own, but that is not justification for criticism or elimination of their values. An elderly couple at a hotel where I stayed noticed I was birdwatching one morning in the tree-filled courtyard. They were not hunters themselves, preferring only to watch wildlife instead, but they told me they thought it was great that I hunted as they could readily understand how it could add to one’s deeper appreciation and understanding of nature. And on my last leg of the journey, I sat in between a man dressed rather formally business-like and a young lady with multiple facial piercings and wildly dyed hair. My initial impression was that it was quite probable neither of these folks hunted or even maybe approved of it. But, how wrong I was. The man was the president of his local hunting club in Michigan and as we talked excitedly about hunting’s role in conservation and how hunting is about so much more than merely the kill, the young lady touched me on the arm and said – sorry, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I so enjoyed listening to you two talk. My dad would have also. I love to hunt with him and our bird dogs, it’s the best quality time we share nowadays.
So, I urge you to please consider discerning fact from fiction. How many people really ARE so opposed to hunting? If you start asking around, in person, I’m confident you will largely find that most people either are indifferent, intrigued, accepting or even directly involved somehow themselves. The old adage of how the squeaky wheel gets the grease sadly applies. Countless people all over the world hunt, without fanfare and controversy, never making the news in “name and shame” media campaigns led by those who can’t even discern a bongo from a bushbuck. Or even recognize that more than a handful of their “beloved” iconic species exist. Many on social media try to convince us that the vast majority of people disapprove of hunting, yet in highly populated areas, only a handful of protesters typically show up at gatherings of hunters to demonstrate their hatred. Meanwhile, thousands of hunters attend these conventions and contribute funding to wildlife globally.
The shameless misrepresentation of reality by people who typically have no firsthand involvement with wildlife and not only contribute nothing but push for policies that will harm wildlife is, in short, unreal. Please, let’s not allow hateful, utterly naive fantasies to destroy concerned, committed realities that are fighting seemingly insurmountable challenges in so many areas of the world, especially the African continent, where increasing human populations, abject poverty, and unsustainable land conversions are the threats to wildlife that loom incredibly large. Sleight of hand maneuvers are appropriate for magic shows, where illusions are created for entertainment purposes. They have no place in conservation discussions and efforts, where illusions usually lead to destruction.