Hunters worry — or at least they should — about presenting a good image of their lifestyle to nonhunters. Waterfowlers are no different.
Putting our best collective foot forward has never been more important, as hunter numbers nationwide continue to shrink. Why the public relations push? Fellow hunters already understand our motivations. Anti-hunters never will. But nonhunters — the 80 percent or so firmly in the middle ground — will ultimately hold great sway when the future of our sport is at stake. We can take several steps to make sure they view waterfowlers as good folks.
This consideration doesn’t take much effort. Follow the regulations. Respect property boundaries. Make every effort to retrieve wounded birds. Don’t set up too close to buildings or shoot toward them. Don’t skybust. Basically, strive to be a model waterfowl hunting citizen. We don’t want nonhunters to view us as a bunch of careless, blood-thirsty mouth-breathers.
This section might simply be titled, “Don’t Be a Jerk.”
Be courteous and even nice to other boaters, hunters and observers. Avoid practices that lead to boat-landing arguments and early morning shouting matches. Take the high road, even if it means hunting a slightly less-productive spot. Look like a rational, thoughtful person, not someone hell-bent solely on shooting ducks.
This might be “Don’t Be a Jerk, Part II.” Pick up your empty hulls and other garbage. Don’t drive over a landowner’s muddy field or dig ruts in his two-track. Further, don’t just visit friendly landowners when you want something. Chat with them at length. Offer to help with simple tasks. Take them or their relatives hunting. Return the favor of access with sausage, hot sticks or a simple Christmas card. Look at the bigger picture, and think about something other than yourself.
Sometimes, you’ll get the chance to talk about duck and goose hunting with nonhunters. Seize the opportunity to explain what drives us afield. Emphasize the positives of ethical waterfowling. Explain that we take only surplus birds — compensatory mortality, for you eggheads — to ensure that waterfowl populations continue to thrive and grow. Tell them how we make use of the delicious wild meat we procure, and even offer to share some. Detail the true motivations for hunting: fellowship, dog work and an innocent appreciation of nature. You might change their minds about waterfowling.
It’s Our Fight to Win
These simple measures won’t win over every nonhunter, but that’s OK. Even bringing a few to our side can help our cause and offer a brighter future. Avoiding or going against these principles, however, will only hasten our decline.
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Realtree waterfowl editor Brian Lovett has been an obsessive duck and goose hunter for more than 30 years, chasing his passion on the Dakota prairies and the marshes and open water of his home state of Wisconsin. He's been a writer and editor in the outdoors industry since 1991.