I love to hunt. I love to cook and eat my game. And while many of my friends don’t hunt, I love to have them over for a wild game dinner.
Many are a bit apprehensive at the thought of dining on something I dragged home from the field. However, after dining on pan-roasted wild duck with golden raisin-orange sauce, they come away with a new appreciation for eating wild game.
The recent article featuring Randy Thomas and his animal collection generated some reaction.
Some people object to the sight of exotic animal heads on the wall. But they don’t realize that trophy animals are carefully managed by biologists in order to preserve the species. Older, non-productive animals are selected for culling because they no longer breed.
Naively, I once thought, “If one can’t eat it, one shouldn’t shoot it,” and I was against the taking of African game. But I discovered that these African animals are indeed consumed by the local villagers, who depend not only on meat provided by these hunters, but also the revenues generated by sport hunting.
In recent testimony to Congress, it was reported that sport hunting generates $200 million annually in remote rural areas of southern Africa. And National Geographic reported that hunting is of key importance to conservation in Africa because it creates financial incentives to promote and retain wildlife as a land use. These financial incentives are the reason many species are now thriving. In Kenya, where no financial incentives or hunting are present, wildlife population levels are declining. Enough said.
Let’s move on to what hunting provides to our society and wildlife in general. Starting in the early 1900s, hunters and anglers recognized the need for a national-based program to promote wildlife conservation. These outdoorsmen were the first environmentalists. Early in the process, the total protection of animals was favored over conservation, and the result was overpopulation, habitat destruction and mass starvation. Wildlife conservation is now a science, and biologists use hunting to help manage wildlife.
So where does the individual hunter come in? Virtually all the funding for these conservation efforts comes from the hunters and anglers. It is estimated that about $4.7 million per day is generated by the licensing and excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment to fund these conservation programs.
And that doesn’t include the conservation efforts by private organizations like Ducks Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the National Wild Turkey Federation and others, supported by hunters, that pump an estimated $300 million into conservation and restoration of habitat that benefit not just the game animals, but also non-game animals and all outdoor enthusiasts.
The results are staggering. In 1900, the white-tailed deer population was around 500,000. It is now estimated at about 36 million. The pronghorn antelope, once down to about 12,000 head just 50 years ago, now number 1 million. There are more antelope in Wyoming than people. Elk have multiplied to 12 times their 1900 numbers, and wild turkeys have increased 50 times their 1952 totals. And all of these species are now hunted as part of the conservation activities funded by sportsmen.
Without hunters funding these programs, where would the money come from? General Fund? PETA? Give me a break.
Many condemn hunting as barbaric, suggesting it is inhumane and carried out by sick individuals bent on mayhem. But that logic, or lack thereof, just doesn’t hold up. Hunting is part of our human heritage, our DNA, fueled by our need for meat, resulting in what amounts to a fiercely personal endeavor to succeed in taking that animal quickly and cleanly. Death in nature is often not quick and clean. Wolves will tear a fawn apart while it is still conscious. Starvation, while natural, is slow and cruel.
Death is a part of nature, as are we.
And because we strive for that perfect shot, whether on a big game animal or a mallard landing on our decoy spread, we celebrate our success at executing a quick, clean kill.
Hunting is a healthy diversion that cultivates honesty, self-discipline and ethical behavior. And it’s a heck of a lot of work providing delicious, natural protein without antibiotics or plastic wrapping.
Dan Phelps grew up in Lodi and is a partner at Bowman & Company, a Stockton CPA firm. An outdoor enthusiast, he hunts with his two Labrador retrievers. He is also a certified Hunter Education Instructor, teaching classes required to obtain a hunting license.