Opinion: Times Change, Antis Don’t

Anti-hunting groups don’t give a whit about wildlife.

Opinion: Times Change, Antis Don’t

Money generated from the taxes on the purchases of firearms, ammunition and archery gear is intended to help state wildlife agencies fund wildlife conservation programs, via the Pittman-Robertson Act. Photo: Gordy Krahn

When predator hunters think of threats to our hunting culture and activities, we often recall visions of freaks with protest signs, whining about what they term as the plight of wildlife unless all hunting is stopped. Truth is, they don’t give a whit about wildlife. They don’t help animals. They raise money to attack humans legislatively, in court and in the streets. They are not simply anti-hunter. They are anti-human. 

But there are other things afoot that potentially could be much more threatening than a few bedraggled protesters. And these other things are working simultaneously, which means they are more of a challenge together than they ever could be separately.           

The combination involves state fish and game departments and the billions of dollars hunters and shooters have provided and continue to provide via the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund of 1937, made possible by the Pittman-Robertson Act — like more than $15 billion for conservation since its inception. That money comes from the taxes on the purchases of firearms, ammunition and archery gear. This tax money is intended to help state wildlife agencies fund wildlife conservation programs.           

That’s a noble goal and hunters have voluntarily taxed themselves to accomplish this. But like most things in government and society, lofty goals become perverted and sometimes can end up being the antithesis of their original intent. Here is where the difference between theory and practice comes into play. Easily, hunters’ funds can end up being used against us. Not good.           

For decades, PR funds have helped state agencies manage wildlife in ways that have benefitted hunting. This is due largely from the reality that as hunters have provided major funding, we have had a significant seat at the table when comes to how those funds are spent. The antis continue to work feverishly behind the scenes to remove hunters from the decision-making tables and replace conservation programs with preservationist programs that end up killing off hunting opportunities and, sadly, work to the detriment of wildlife itself.           

State wildlife agencies have been put into a squeeze. The costs of doing their jobs properly have gone up and have outstripped the ability of PR funds alone to pay for all, or even a significant amount, of what is needed. They need other sources of revenue. Simultaneously, anti-hunters have been infiltrating some state game and fish commissions and now represent a majority in many of them. Heck, in some states the very names of the commissions and departments have been changed from fish and game to wildlife — removing “game” from the context.           

So, what is happening in those instances is that decisions about how hunter funds are spent are being made by anti-hunters. And, to the extent that additional funds are brought in from other sources, the impact of hunters dwindles to the degree that the funding sources are watered down so that no one or even several interests have a significant input.           

When this kind of thing happens, hunters and others don’t have a say, and the wildlife itself has no one to champion it, because the anti-hunters don’t really care about the wildlife. They care about power and control. All of this is happening amid a political arena in which the collective is replacing the individual. Hunters, and especially predator hunters, tend to be individualists, so what we have is a classic culture clash.           

Meanwhile, there has been a social shift when it comes to the purchase of guns and ammo in which a bigger and bigger percentage of guns and ammo being bought have nothing to do with hunting. We’re talking home defense and that sort of thing, which has seen an uptick because of the political shift coupled with social unrest in many major metropolitan areas.           

Some have suggested that such products should not be charged the PR tax. Such a thought might be logical in many ways, but politics and creeping socialism are anything but logical. They are emotional. Hence, even this logically insignificant schism within the shooting world can easily pit shooters against hunters. In such a clash, the winners are the antis because if the total amount of hunter money decreases, so does hunter influence. It’s a classic divide and conquer situation.           

There is no apparent easy or quick solution to these challenges because they involve actions and reactions on hundreds of fronts across the land. And each one of these challenges tends to be both local and specific to local situations. Although it is always good advice to support hunter advocacy organizations at the national level, it is also crucial that hunters be involved in local issues that involve hunting and wildlife.            

In recent years, the antis have augmented their attacks on hunting via the ballot box where they qualify initiative matters that dictate how wildlife will be managed. The North American model of wildlife management has been the most successful way to manage wildlife on earth, but it is threatened when emotions rather than facts drive wildlife decisions.           

At the core of the North American model is science. Scientific research is conducted to determine the best way to handle wildlife management situations. When wildlife management is done via the ballot box, it is the generally uninformed and emotional members of human society who determine how wildlife is managed. Not good.           

In addition to supporting pro-hunting organizations, individual hunters can and should do several things. First, monitor and weigh-in when local or state agencies consider wildlife management changes. Individuals have much more impact locally than they do on the larger and more remote stages. Work with fellow hunters to defend hunting locally. The antis gang-up to win. We need to do the same. Numbers and voices matter in the various public forums. For the long term, we all can do a couple more things to assure a bright future for predator hunting. First, we can continue to hunt. We are best when we do what we do and are who we are.           

Second, introduce others to our hunting culture. The more hunters there are, the louder our voice can be. We need to think in terms of generations of hunters, not just the next few years.           

The bottom line is that we will have no more power than we insist on having and that we will have less power if we just sit back quietly and allow our future to be determined by anti-hunters. Think about it and then do something. It would be nice if it had major impact, but the truth is that every little bit counts. The future of hunting is in our hands now. What we do or don’t do will determine our future and the future of hunting itself.


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