The Column, No. 87:

Is it Possible for Intelligent People to Understand Hunting?

By Randy Wakeman

Hunters' numbers have risen over a five-year period from 2006 to 2011, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Eleven percent more Americans (ages 16 and older) fished and 9% more hunted in 2011 than in 2006, according to USFWS, a reversal of a twenty year decline. More and more folks are understanding that doing things outdoors is healthy, according to Dan Ashe, the Fish and Wildlife Service's director.

It isn't surprising that some people automatically object to what they don't know. Only 6% of California residents fished in 2011, but 41% in Alaska did. Just 1% of Massachusetts residents hunted in 2011, but 21% of South Dakota residents did.

As a matter of fact, some 90% of the people of the world eat meat and that number is on the rise, led by China. In the United States and Canada, an estimated 97 – 98% of the population consumes meat. Of the couple of percent of the population that doesn't consume meat, they still buy it in various forms from food for their pet dogs and cats, live feeder mice, crickets, worms and so forth for pet reptiles. It is an untenable contradiction, for hiring mercenaries to kill and butcher meat for your use is what compared to actually getting it for yourself? Just laziness?

The existence of mankind stresses wildlife, for loss of habitat is a key factor. Yet, automobiles, trains, airports, farming, wind farms . . . all of these things randomly kill animals every single minute. That's 24 / 7, no tags required, a year round situation that has no season and is random in its mass-killing.

The best way to insure survival of a species is to hunt it. No one cares more about healthy game populations than hunters. Every year I spend thousands in licenses, taxes and fees just for the opportunity to hunt. The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration of 1937, most often referred to as the Pittman–Robertson Act for its sponsors, has raised over $2 Billion dollars. It has been so successful, that a similar approach was used for fish, the Dingell–Johnson Act. Hunters contribute somewhere upwards of three and a half million dollars every day in the United States to conservation by purchasing taxable items and hunting licenses.

For every individual that has nothing better to do than complain about hunting, the question that begs to be asked is how many thousands of dollars did they contribute to DNR's last year? How much habitat restoration and protection have they funded? How many hungry folks have they given meat to? How hard do you have to hit a chicken to turn it into a McNugget, anyway? Do we think that if animals like their health care plan, they can keep it?

What of science? Unfortunately, education does not equate to wisdom. Consider the plight of Ming, the mollusk, as reported in November, 2013. Ming was the world's oldest living creature, estimated to be 400 years old. Ming the ocean quahog was dredged up in 2006, in Iceland. The external growth rings were not precise indicators of age, so British scientists had to know. They opened up Ming, killing him in the process, concluding he was 405 years old. Ming was actually 507 years old when killed by scientists, for they had originally miscounted the growth rings on the hinge ligament of their kill. The killing of Ming is held as "incredibly fascinating" to a portion of the scientific community. The charity Help the Aged, gave the marine biologists from Bangor University £40,000 to investigate why this animal lives so long. For far less than £40,000, I could have told them that if you want to live that long, you need to be an invertebrate with a very, very slow metabolism. If you want to live longer, you need to keep away from scientists.

Hunting and conservation are inextricably linked. If not for hunters such as Theodore Roosevelt and John Olin, there would be scant little in the way of wildlife in the United States for everyone to enjoy. No one needs to hunt, but ordering a pizza is not a particularly courageous act, nor one that protects wildlife.

Whether anyone hunts, the benefits of hunting cannot be ignored. All you need to do is basic research to gain knowledge of the subject. If you love nature and wildlife, be thankful that there are hunters willing to invest billions of dollars to insure its continuation and conservation, when no one else does. To ban hunting is often to condemn a species to extinction, to create a world where the zoo and the circus is the pathetic remnant of what was once nature.

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Copyright 2014 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.