What is a conservationist?
I can’t tell you I have come across many people who title themselves as a conservationist. It is a pretty broad term and could have a variety of meanings. When you research the meaning of conservationist you will most likely get a definition that sounds something like; “a person who advocates for the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife”. A lot of people would argue against hunters fitting this definition, but outdoorsmen are in fact the most common and the original form of conservationist in the United States. Even though hunters don’t protect the individual specimen they are harvesting, the money they put into harvesting that animal goes towards the greater good of the species as well as the environment.
Making a Conservationist
As an avid animal lover and hunter this idea of conservation always intrigued me. I was always outside as a kid, either catching bass out of the farm pond or weaseling my way into a goose hunt with my dad. The outdoors were what made me happy. I knew that in the future, a career in the outdoors was all I would settle for. As I got older I made the decision that I wanted to do my part in the conservation effort. I decided to go to school for Environmental Science in hopes to be part in the research aspect of the conservation effort. But that’s only one part of why I considered myself a conservationist, the other is because I am an avid outdoors women and take pride in my hunting and fishing efforts. Being an outdoorsman is no easy feat, it requires determination, patience, and a lot of hard work.
How exactly does hunting help animals again?
For non-hunters it may not make a ton of sense how hunters are doing more good than bad, I get this, when you shoot a deer you’re not helping that individual deer. But when a hunter buys his or her license a majority of that money goes back to conservation in ways such as:
- Researching wildlife (Population dynamics, disease, etc.)
- Wildlife management programs
- Purchasing public lands for hunting as well as non hunting activities
- Community education programs
Sportsmen, like myself, fund more than 75% of state fish and wildlife agencies budgets. That’s something for all outdoors men and women to be proud of. Hunters don’t only help secure funds for conservation through their license purchases; when purchasing firearms, ammunition, and other related equipment an excise tax is put on these items that helps fund a variety of conservation programs. Since the beginning of the act in 1937, sportsmen and women have raised over $15 billion dollars towards the conservation effort. This money has resulted in the recovery of deer, elk, turkeys and many non-game species that benefit hunters and non-hunters alike.
Ways that hunting helps the environment and the public that may not be as well known about include:
- Saving trees and plants from over browsing deer, hunting deer alleviates over-browsing of younger trees. This ultimately can benefit song birds and other tree-dwelling species.
- Reducing dangerous encounters with wildlife. When predator hunting seasons are eliminated, encounters with potentially dangerous predators always increases.
- Hunters help feed the hungry; venison and other big game is commonly donated to soup kitchens and food pantries across the country.
Hunting does way more good than bad for the United States, hunters are not ruthless killers, they are people who want to harvest animals to provide for their families. Without hunters there would be too many herbivores that would lead to higher consumption of farmers crops and increased wildlife-human contact which isn’t usually pleasant.
I want to point out that not all so called hunters are conservationists, to be considered a conservationist you have to be an ethical and legal hunter. By breaking rules or laws as an outdoorsman you are defeating the point of conservation in the first place. From personal experience, I don’t know any hunters that don’t respect the land or the animals they harvest. Hunters and fishermen spend more time in the great outdoors than the average person, this alone will lead to a great appreciation of nature as well as knowledge of the land. As a hunter you learn to respect every aspect of the environment, you want the land to prosper and be healthy for future generations.
So all in all, hunting is a big part of being a conservationist. Without hunters and fisherman, conservation programs would be in a lot of trouble. The country needs conservation as much as the country needs outdoorsmen. Teddy Roosevelt himself said; “In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen.” We have the beautiful parks and public lands in this country because of hunters, or the original conservationists. As an avid hunter its common to get a lot of backlash because of hunting, it's usually due to a lack of education on conservation. If you’re a sportsmen it’s important to educate people whether hunter, non-hunter, or anti-hunter on why hunting is such an essential part of conservation and being a conservationist. If you’re interested in getting involved in either fishing or hunting, do it! It doesn’t matter if you’re a seven or seventy-five, man or women, anyone can do it at any point in their life. Learning to hunt or fish can be extremely rewarding, providing for your family while doing something you love is always a perfect combination.
Rockagator Pro-Staffer Payton Hanssen, student of environmental science, addresses the often-misunderstood subject of what it means to be a conservationist.
“Hunting.” Official Web Page of the U S Fish and Wildlife Service, www.fws.gov/refuges/hunting/hunters-as-conservationists/.
Miniter, Frank. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Hunting. Regnery Pub., 2007.