Our hunting privileges in the America are in jeopardy like they’ve never been before. Hunter numbers have dropped drastically; in 1970 over 40 million people bought a hunting license and today that number is probably less than 12 million. As our numbers decrease, so do our supporters. We’re already at the point in some states that every vote is needed when hunting related issues are on the ballot.
After spending over 35 years as a DNR Conservation Officer, I’m still amazed how sportsmen, hunters and fishermen, cannot seem to agree on anything! Hunters are their own worst enemy; every type of hunter seems to have only that group’s interest at heart. Bow hunters don’t seem to be able to get along with gun hunters; muzzleloaders are often at odds with both of those groups, and there’s no way for a state game agency to set deer seasons that’ll please them all.
Speaking of archery hunters I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a group of hunters more fragmented than those who hunt with some form of a stick and string. For years many avid bow hunters have fought the use of crossbows with an almost cult like fervor. “Crossbows are ruining bowhunting!” “It’s too easy!” “You don’t have practice!” “The crossbow hunters will kill too many deer!” I’ve heard these complaints in barbershops, at gun counters, on Internet forums, and on social media for years. Many seasoned bow hunters would have you believe a crossbow is the tool of the devil. The problem is certainly not just with bow hunters. Those who hunt with dogs often run afoul with other hunters in the field. Every year beloved and valuable hunting dogs are shot for no good reason.
Currently there’s a debate going on in some states about deer management, the lowering of buck limits, and antler restrictions. Many deer hunters want to encourage the growing of bigger antlers. That’s all well and good, but how about the guy who just wants to go on public land with his kid in hopes of taking any legal deer? I don’t want to tell a young hunter he or she can’t take a spike or a fork horn for their first deer. There has to be leeway for both sides. On public land especially we’ve got to learn to respect the wishes of other hunters.
Somehow, by the grace of God, we’ve got to get away from this close-minded thinking in the hunter ranks, which basically says “ I am right and you are wrong, my way or the highway!” You have your way of hunting, you learned from Dad and Grand Dad and maybe Uncle Bill. The guy in the next county over or in another state may not see hunting the same as you. What we’re getting down to is – and I want you to pay attention – If the other guy is hunting in a way that is not your cup of tea, but is legal, then keep quiet about it and even offer support if someone attacks him.
The guy in a ground blind with a crossbow may not have your self-appointed seal of approval and the bird hunter’s setter that ran past your treestand didn’t really cause all the deer in a three county area to leave the country. If it’s legal to bait in your area but you don’t like it, don’t do it, but don’t berate the guy who does.
Boys and girls, we’re way past the times when we can be picky about what another hunter does. Anything and everything we can do to get another pair of boots on the ground, to get another license purchased, and to have money spent in a gun store; that’s what we had better be thinking about. The well organized and well-funded anti-hunting groups are watching, and some say all they have to do is wait – wait for our numbers to fall below recoverable levels – and then move in for the kill. Why make their job easier by squabbling amongst ourselves?
I didn’t coin this phrase, but, united we stand, divided we fall.