I’m going to jump right out there and say that I believe the outlook for our hunting heritage is strong.
A stone wall also is strong. And a stone wall can be chiseled away until it crumbles and falls.
There are a lot of people with chisels out there trying to tear down our hunting heritage. Some of them intentionally. Some of them unintentionally. Regardless, their actions and behaviors are hindering the preservation of this way of life we all cherish.
Research has shown a lack of access is one of the most-cited reasons as to why adults stop hunting. When the adults stop hunting, the kids stop as well.
I remember the days when I could knock on a door or make a phone call and get permission to hunt. I wouldn’t say those days are gone. But they’re fading fast.
One reason this is happening is demand. Everybody who has decent ground is either leasing it or hunting it themselves. And the ones who aren’t, just won’t let anybody hunt.
2. HABITAT LOSS
Think about the area you hunt. How much of that area is less suited for critters now than it was 20 years ago? How much of it is better suited?
I can think of two tracts of land that I used to hunt on that are no longer suitable for deer. I currently hunt another that has a third of the deer it used to. It’s all due to human encroachment. This is a real concern not only for future generations but for the generations that live today, too.
CWD, EHD, BTV … and all the rest threaten the health of our cervids. Deer, elk, and moose are all in harm's way with these and other diseases.
You can read story after story about how EHD hit hard in 2012 and 2013. You can read even more stories about how CWD is slowly sweeping across the country. It used to be confined to states such as Wisconsin. Now it’s charting new territory such as Michigan.
We have to do something to curb the trend. Everyone wants to talk about CWD, but no one wants to offer solutions. And if we don’t come up with solutions soon, there won’t be a need for them. To take this one step further, think about what would happen if they deem CWD contractible by humans.
Hunting isn’t cheap, in most cases. It’s fairly expensive, especially for elk, moose, and other big game hunters. If for some reason the economy tanks, that will put even more financial strain on the sport. And it’s a much more complicated equation than you may initially think.
If hunters stop buying hunting licenses, firearms, and ammunition, conservation efforts cease. Not only conservation organizations, but DNRs feel the impact, too. Without DNRs and conservation organizations, wildlife populations will decline.
Here’s the hot-button issue right now. Or at least, it was. I’ve not heard much talk about it the last few months. That said, coyotes, wolves, cougars, and bears are making serious headway in population increases. In Kentucky where I frequently hunt, the first wolf and cougar were killed in the state within a year of each other. That was only two years ago. Heck, my uncle saw a black bear attacking his mule a mere five miles from a farm I hunt. No one has ever seen a bear in that part of the country. At least, not until recently. Now bears are being seen on a fairly regular basis.
Please note that I’m not a predator-hater. If they’re native to the area, they have just as much right to be there as I do. But DNRs have to set forth plans to control these predator populations. If they don’t, game species will pay the price. Hunters will see less game, get frustrated, and quit hunting. That results in fewer dollars for DNRs and conservation programs. Crazy how each of these eight reasons lead to the same end, huh?
When I was a kid, I rode my bike or shot my BB gun. Today, kids play Xbox, online games, etc. Simply put, the outdoors has to compete with technology for kids’ time. It’s winning on some fronts and losing on others.
That’s why outreach programs are necessary for the preservation of hunting. Getting youth — and adults — involved in the outdoors is key.
I’m not Bobby Bouches' momma, and I don’t think, “Foosball is the devil.” (That's for all you Waterboy fans out there.) I love sports. I grew up playing baseball and basketball and went on to play varsity baseball in high school. But it’s becoming a problem.
Traveling teams for 12-year-olds, offseason practices, and year-round schedules are producing some dang good athletes. But it’s hurting our turnout in the woods. I remember skipping a spring baseball practice here and there to hit the turkey woods. I also remember going AWOL on the basketball court to sit in a treestand. My point is that kids need a healthy balance. Sports are great for kids in many ways. But so is the outdoors.
8. LACK OF UNITY
We have to come together as adults to ensure that youths get the chance they deserve. They can’t go if no one takes them. That makes us part of the problem. All this talk of people wanting to end youth seasons is ludicrous. Are you kidding me? End the youth seasons? You’ve got to be joking.
It’s time we all pulled our heads out of our butts and wake up to the truth: The future of our way of life depends on the kids. You aren’t more important than that kid down the street who’s been dreaming of killing a big buck. To say that youth seasons should end is about the most selfish thing anyone could advocate for. We can't limit our youth. The mere thought leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And I think I’ll end on that note.
Editor's note: This was originally published in August of 2015.
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