Musings of an Old Hunter
by Bart O'Gara
That there no longer is a need to hunt is a common theme in writings by those who oppose hunting. As a rational act, hunting, indeed, is not a necessary human activity in most parts of the world today. However, hunting is more an urge - like sex and gluttony - than a rational act. Hypothetically, with rapid population growth and the trend toward small families, there is no longer a rational need to have sex more than a few times in a lifetime. Likewise, with the trend toward inactive lifestyles and -obesity in developed countries, neither is there a rational need for three meals a day. The primary differences between the desire for sex or to satisfy hunger beyond necessity and the urge to hunt lies in the fact most people enjoy the former two, while only a minority have the urge to hunt. Imagine, if 80 percent of humans did not enjoy sex, the scorn that we in the minority would endure? Hunters can well imagine.
Much has been written asserting that youths learn to enjoy hunting in rural settings and from family and friends. This is logical, and such youths certainly hunt more than do those from cities or those not exposed to hunting by family or friends. However, many such hunters enjoy the sport until they move to the city, become too busy or lose contact with family and childhood friends. In other words, many of those hunters - for whom hunting was convenient and socially satisfying - were not avid (genetic?) hunters.
Avid hunters seem to be born with the urge in their genes. I wondered about this as a child, why my brother - raised on a farm by the same non-hunting parents, educated by the same teachers in the same one-room schoolhouse and playing with the same peers -could take hunting or leave it. Hunting was my avocation; no game, pastime or social function provided the same satisfaction or feeling of elation.
As I write this, sitting in front of a tent at 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) in the Tien Shan of the Kyrghyz Republic, I again ponder why I must hunt. At 74 (I would have taken better care of myself had I known I would live this long), I can hardly struggle over the treacherous talus slopes at 14 to 15 thousand feet (4,267 to 4,572 meter) where the great rams thrive. The 12 to 13 hour days in a crude wooden saddle, negotiating slopes and slides that no one should ask even tough mountain ponies to attempt, have become torture. Yet, I love this endeavor more than anything in life, except my feisty little wife.
During three years I spent in Africa, I was surprised to find that only about 20 percent of the men in many villages were hunters. The others farmed, gathered or herded. A few women also hunted - mostly snaring small mammals and taking gallinaceous birds with throwing sticks - or fished. The hunters were honored members of tribal society, providing most of the meat for their villages. They had the most wives and, consequently, the most fields and beer. With the obvious advantages, why did only the minority hunt? Genetics?
For 25 years, I was associated with a university wildlife biology program. Most students had experience with wildlife or hunting because of family, friends or rural backgrounds. Increasingly, television nature programs has kindled interest in wildlife (not hunting). A few students came from large cities, had never handled a gun and did not know anyone who hunted. Some had parents or a parent who were (was) violently anti-hunting. Yet, those students came to a wildlife program in Montana primarily because they wanted to hunt - something they had read about in a magazine. Genetics?
Anti-hunters generally cannot understand how hunters can admire and love wildlife and still kill the most beautiful. I have seen no entirely satisfactory explanation and cannot offer one. I have cried every time I had a dog euthanized, quit farming largely because I detested inflicting the pain of castration and dehorning and have stayed awake all night with remorse - and nearly quit hunting - when I lost a cripple. Yet, I always went back to hunting. The only rational defense I can offer, if one is needed, follows. During more than 55 years of wildlife watching and hunting around the world, invariably the countries with sport hunting programs – programs that promoted sustained-yield harvests and benefited local people - had the healthiest wildlife populations and best habitat. Can this be wrong? The welfare of populations seems more important than the fate of surplus individuals.
One argument sometimes heard against hunting contends that non-consumptive use is increasing while hunting is decreasing, and the latter interferes with the former. Mention is seldom made that much wildlife watching takes place on wildlife refuges and winter ranges bought and managed with sportspersons’ dollars. A recent survey revealed that during 1991-1996 there was no change in the number of hunters but wildlife watchers decreased by 17 percent. This fact should not be viewed as positive by hunters. The welfare of wildlife is benefited by the broadest support possible by all segments of the public.
- Bart O’Gara, 1997. Written while on a hunt for Marco Polo Sheep. Successful hunt given him by Bob Lee of Hunting World. Late October - early November.
The Value of Hunting as a Life Experience
By James E. Miller, Ph.D., Past President of The Wildlife Society, Professor Emeritus at MSU
I have long been convinced that the thrill of the chase and responsible stewardship of wildlife resources are two of the fundamental passions of mankind. I contend that hunting blood courses in all our veins, and that those of us who do not suppress our inborn instinct for the chase and the desire to be responsible stewards derive great pleasure and satisfaction from the pursuit of these efforts, which are basic instincts…hunting is about an enriching experience, not just the occasional harvest of a game animal....
Aside from feeling genetically and instinctively predisposed to hunt, I treasure and enjoy everything about it: the planning and preparation, the sights and smells, the privilege of observing animal behavior, the scouting, the challenges and thrills of the chase, the skillful cleaning of harvested game, the final organic feast. Hunting enables me to use and improve skills learned over a lifetime. It demands physical fitness, personal discipline, and a code of ethics. It recharges my personal batteries, improves my perspective about life, and results not only in rich experience but in priceless memories of great times afield with family, friends, and colleagues....
I believe that wildlife management continues to rely on the vision of people whose lives have been positively inspired and transformed by hunting. Fair-chase hunting teaches vital life lessons including the connectivity and interdependence of life; dependence on the biological integrity, viability, and extent of natural systems; awareness of our environment; the importance of stewardship; skills of observation, patience, and responsibility to ourselves and to the animals we seek; self-sufficiency and self-confidence; natural history; responsibility for the safe use of lethal harvest equipment; humility and gratitude; social cooperation with colleagues, land-owners, managers, and local communities; survival skills; and reverence for life itself.
To my mind, hunters are heroes. They were the first to initiate efforts to stop the destruction of habitats from development and the sale of wildlife and the first to call for legislation to restore wildlife habitat and populations. They continue to support and defend scientific wildlife management. Fair-chase hunters are passionate about wild things and wild places, recognizing that wild creatures are worthy of our respect and admiration. Such hunters understand the need for enabling and supporting scientific wildlife management and sustainability.
By James E. Miller, Ph.D., Past President of The Wildlife Society, Professor Emeritus at MSU
Game Economics And Esthetics
Hunting for sport in an improvement over hunting for food, in that there has been added to the test of skill an ethical code, which the hunter formulates for himself, and must live up to without the moral support of bystanders. That the code of one hunter is more advances than that of another is merely proof that the process of sublimation, in this as in other atavisms, is still advancing.
The hope is sometimes express that all these instincts will be "outgrown." This attitude seems to overlook the fact that the resulting vacuum will fill up with something, and not necessarily with something better. It somehow overlooks the biological basis of human nature, - the difference between historical and evolutionary time-scales. We can refine our manner of exercising the hunting instinct, but we shall do well to persist as a species at the end of the time it would take to outgrow it.
Greek leader, Xenophon asserts:
"Men who love sport will reap therefrom no small advantage...it is an excellent training for war...Such men, if required to make a trying march...will not break down;...they will be able to sleep on a hard bed and keep good watch over the post entrusted to them. In advance against the enemy they will...obey their orders, for it is thus wild animals are taken...they will have learned steadfastness;...they will be able to save themselves...in marshy, precipitous, or otherwise dangerous ground, for from experience they will be quite at home in it. Men like these...have rallied and fought against the victorious enemy...and have beaten them by their courage and endurance"
Hunting is Worthy of a King
The Portrayal of Hunting in Art Museums
Recently, I was in the Louvre National Museum of Art in Paris to see the Mona Lisa and made a discovery worth sharing. Napoleon Bonaparte was a devoted sport hunter. His dining room has been preserved and recreated in the Louvre. It is enormous in size and grandeur. The entire head-end wall is a mural, not just of game animals, but of the hunt of those game animals. The hunt is celebrated, not just the game harvested. Throughout the museum, it is clear that hunting and game animals have had major cultural importance for the last 4,000 years. The insight I had at the Louvre reminded me of one I had during a similar tour of the Prado Museum in Spain. Seems that all the kings and queens of antiquity, as well as the royal children, chose to be painted in the proudest dress - their hunting clothes! (Now you know why they all seem to look alike.) It made a 1,000-year-strong statement of how kings and queens and people who had everything possible in their time esteemed hunting above all else and wanted the same for their children. Is it any wonder that so many feel the same today?
- John J. Jackson, III, from the World Conservation Force Bulletin, December 1998
How Many Hunters Are There, Really?
There are three times more hunters in the US than commonly published. Nearly 45 million people in the US have hunted and form part of its support. The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) issued a press release in July that quotes the experts. The National Wild Turkey Federation is an appropriate sports- men’s conservation organization to call these facts to attention. The number of wild turkey hunters in the US has doubled from 1.3 million to 2.6 million since the NWTF was founded in 1973. We repeat the NWTF points here, the quoted experts and add some need-to-know analysis from our own files.
The NWTF press release states that "[m]any people believe that reporting there are 13 million hunters in this country is at least misleading and, at worst, a gross underestimation of their actual numbers." "That number only represents how many people over the age of 16 hunted during a one year period…. It does not include hunters under the age of 16, nor nor does it take into account those people who consider themselves hunters but for whatever reason, didn’t hunt in 2001."
The release quotes Mark Damian Duda, Executive Director of Responsive Management, that "[a]ccording to our research, about 28 million Americans consider themselves hunters, even though they don’t hunt every year and some haven’t gone for several years." (Emphasis ours.) The NWTF press release also quotes Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates that "[t]he National Survey shows there are 43.7 million people in the United States who have hunted in any previous year. That number is three times more than the number of people reported as having hunted in 2001. That’s significant." The NWTF release adds that researchers have "found that many people subscribe to the idea that once a hunter, always a hunter."
Now for our thoughts. The Survey everyone is citing is the 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation completed once every five years by the US Census Bureau. First, the 13 million figure can indeed be misleading. When the 1.74 million hunters in the six- to 15-year-old age class are added, the number of hunters is 14.7 million. It is also wholly incorrect to compute hunters in 2001 as a percentage of the US population, as the antis do, unless the six- to 15-year-old age group of hunters is included. One fifth of the total US population was in the six- to 15-year-old age class at the time of the survey. Certainly, hunters in that age class should be considered as well. That age group is particularly important because of the lifetime impression hunting can make on children that naturally yearn to hunt and experience the greater outdoors. The same is true for the 13.145 million six- to 15-year-olds who fished that year. They remember.
The National Survey does conclude that 43,745,000 persons in the US hunted in 2000 or before. That does not include those who hunted in 2001 for the first time. It only includes those who hunted in 2000 or before. If the previous year’s number of first-time hunters was used as an estimate of the number of new hunters in 2001, that adds an additional 1.24 million hunters. When totaled, it raises the number of people who reportedly have hunted by the early Fall of 2001 to 44,985,000. We round off that to 45 million, which it misses by only 15,000.
We must also add that the terrorism of September 11, 2001, did not affect the results of the survey, according to the surveyors. Nevertheless, much of the Survey was conducted in October, the next month. Many hunters we know cancelled hunts and booking agents were complaining. The survey of 2006 should tell.
Readers may recall that Conservation Force and Dallas Safari Club contracted with Mark Damian Duda of Responsive Management and published a brochure on the significant growth of big game hunting in America. It is still true. Though the 2001 National Survey showed no growth in big game hunting, virtually all other activities declined. Big game hunting continues to stand out for that. 91 percent of all hunters hunted big game. It is the most popular kind of hunting, and it has had the highest growth rate of any popular outdoor activity for more than half a century. One survey showing no growth does not change the long-term trend.
The anti-hunters raved when the 2001 National Survey was published, but there was little for them to rave about. They like to compare America’s hunting and fishing to wildlife watching. We do not agree that wildlife watching activities are opposite and opposing poles, as the anti profess. Nor do we agree that hunting and fishing are declining in comparison to wildlife watching. They absolutely are not!
The activities are not opposites. Hunters and anglers pay the largest share of wildlife conservation, which is far more than all others combined. Moreover, hunters and anglers are more likely to be "wildlife watchers" than others in the general public. 62 percent of hunters and 58 percent of anglers participated in wildlife watching in 2001. In fact, 33 percent of wildlife watchers also reported hunting and/or fishing during the year.
But that is not all. Wildlife watching has never been what it is held out to be in popularity, growth or revenue. The number of wildlife watchers declined in every survey before 2001. In 2001, its growth was not enough to offset its decline over the decade. "Participation in wildlife watching (observing, feeding and photographing wildlife) decreased from 76.1 million in 1991 to 62.9 million in 1996 (17 plercent), but it increased to 66.1 million from 1996 to 2001 (5 percent)," according to the survey. That is a 10 million decrease over the decade! That was preceded by a similar decrease in participants in both five-year surveys the decade before. Nothing has fared worse than wildlife watching in the past two decades, since 1980. Before 1980, wildlife watching was not surveyed. Overall "the number of wildlife-watching participants who took trips away from home to observe, feed or photograph wildlife decreased 19 percent from 1980 to 2001. The number of people who fed wildlife around their home decreased by 18 percent." (2001 National Survey Summary of Findings) Wildlife observing and photographing decreased by five percent in 1996 and 13 percent in 2001. The component of wildlife watching that increased in 1996 was residential wildlife watching, while feeding wildlife and visiting parks maintained their 1996 participation levels. Watching wildlife at one’s residence is the "preeminent type of wildlife watching," but does little to support America’s wildlife conservation system.
The longer trends of hunting and fishing should also not be ignored. From 1955 to 2001, hunting (all kinds) increased 31 percent and big game hunting more than tripled. Angling increased by 130 percent during the same period.
Sportsmen and sportswomen also remain the paradigm because they pay the bills. The perception that wildlife watching is ushering in a new conservation era has proven dead wrong for two decades. Even the Teaming With Wildlife campaign of our state agencies would have placed the greatest burden on sportsmen and sportswomen. Some agencies have lost sight of the fact that they are wildlife agencies, not tourist bureaus. They are spending sportsmen’s dollars to lure general tourist into the states. Those general tourists contribute little to wildlife conservation and add to management costs. Those added costs are political as well as financial. Their prejudices, biases, and urban beliefs pose problems.
From 1996 to 2001 nonresidential wildlife photography declined 22 percent, nonresidential observing of wildlife declined 12 percent and nonresidential wildlife feeding declined 29 percent. The declines over the full decade from 1991 to 2001 were 30, 34 and 47 percent, respectively. Even visiting public parks and areas in one’s own state of residence was down 29 percent from 1991 to 2001.
Still another comparison is insightful. The antis and doomsayers would have you believe that hunting recruitment is too low and that hunters are aging and dieing off. When the survey results were first announced, Heidi Prescott, the National Director of the Fund for Animals, commented in a press release, "The End of Hunting is in Sight." She said that "[t]hese are long-term trends, not just a blip in the numbers, and we’re delighted to see that more and more people are trading their guns for cameras…. The end of hunting is no more than a generation away."
The truth is that wildlife watching is far worse off. There are a lower percentage of young wildlife watchers than hunters. Only 13 percent of wildlife watchers are in the 25 to 34 age group while 19 percent of hunters and anglers are in that class.
Wildlife watchers are older. 19 percent of wildlife watchers are 65 years of age, or older, while only seven percent of hunters and eight percent of anglers are in that class. Adding the three age groups (45-54, 55-64 and 65 and over) is really revealing. More than half of wildlife watchers (57 percent) are in the 45 and above age classes. Only 40 percent of hunters and 42 percent of anglers were forty-five and over in 2001. What is even more remarkable is how much older wildlife watchers would be if 62 percent of hunters and 58 percent of anglers were not wildlife watchers, thus lowering the age percentages because of their inclusion. The younger hunters among wildlife watchers make the watchers appear more youthful than they would otherwise be.
That having been said, the antis want to eliminate wildlife watching too. They want to eliminate all dominion and interference with wildlife and animal life. They want to close zoos, circuses, parks and access to land. Their strategy is to divide to vanquish. Perhaps hunters are actually fortunate that wildlife watchers enjoy wildlife too.
Take solace in the fact that there are 45 million people in the US who have hunted and 111 million people who have fished as anglers, which is 115 million when those who fished for the first time in 2001 are included. Nevertheless, hunters and anglers are minorities. No one and no organization will ever change our minority status, yet we are not alone. Minorities are the norm for nearly every activity. We are a big one.
Hunting Computer Games Top Sellers
It is heartening to discover that a hunting computer game called Deer Hunterwas the number one top seller for months and has sold more than one million copies in this country. In fact, Deer Hunter and Rocky Mountain Trophy Hunterare both on the Top Ten Bestseller Chart. These computer games are available for only $19.95 at WalMart. The sales are a testament to the strength of hunting simulation games. Now there is a Deer Hunter's Extended Season CD-ROM that adds to the thrill of the hunt with twice as many deer, three new locations, the use of a black powder muzzle loader weapon and options to allow gamers to create their own hunting locations. Further expanding its Deer Hunter collection, WizardWorks is introducing the Deer Hunter Companionstrategy guide, an add-on for Deer Hunter, and Deer Hunter's Extended Season. Priced at $9.99, Deer Hunter Companion is a combination PC game add-on and print strategy guide that gives gamers more tricks of the trade, hunting strategies for tracking deer and five new hunting areas. The second CD-ROM, Rocky Mountain Trophy Hunter, gives gamers the thrill of the hunt from the rugged terrain of the Rocky Mountains while trying to track down such big game animals as elk, bear, moose and bighorn sheep.
In a realistic recreation, while trudging through the Rockies in search of big game animals, computer gamers encounter unexpected climate changes and the extreme weather conditions of snow, rain, thunder and lightning. Other features of the game include ultra-realistic wounded animal tracking; life-like animal movements and behavior; four big game animals to hunt (bighorn sheep, bear, elk and moose); five weapons (shotgun, rifle, compound bow, muzzle loader and six-shot revolver); tracking aids such as aerial maps with hotspot markers, compass, wind indicator, blood trails, paths, bedding areas, tracks, rubbings and droppings; and tools of the trade such as tree stand, animal calls, bear bait, cover scents,, attractant scents, spotting scope and binoculars. A portion of the sale is donated to Wildlife Forever. Anti-hunters have letter campaigns to get them out of the stores.
- From the World Conservation Force Bulletin
What Motivates People to Hunt and Fish?
There are many reasons why people hunt and fish, according to polls of over 2,400 hunters and anglers. In the March, 2007 polls by AnglerSurvey.com andHunterSurvey.com, experiencing nature, relaxation, and spending time with family and friends are the top reasons for getting outdoors. The specific results were:
What Motivates People to Hunt and Fish? Anglers: Hunters:
To relax 7.9% 15.4%
Get away to nature 27.6% 42.8%
Good family/friend activity 20.6% 20.3%
The challenge 19.3% 15.5%
Other 3.9% 4.3%
Don’t know or no answer 0.7% 1.6%
“Most anglers and hunters go outdoors for more than one reason,” explains Rob Southwick, who oversees the monthly surveys. “Our March poll focused on the most significant reason why people hunt and fish. People who don’t hunt and fish may think bringing home dinner is the major motivation for hunters and anglers, but that is not the case. The true benefits from time spent outdoors are to unwind, experience nature and to reconnect with others. The results reinforce similar findings from other recent scientific studies.”
AnglerSurvey.com and HunterSurvey.com are monthly online surveys of sportsmen and women nationally providing industry and policymakers with information on fishing trends and activity. For more information, contact Rob Southwick at firstname.lastname@example.org.