HUNTERS AS WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT ADVOCATES AND PARTNERS
Hunters Play a Crucial Role in Game Management
In 2013, hunters contributed more than 1.5 billion dollars to conservation of wildlife from a macro perspective, with licensing and tag/lottery revenues contributing to about 50% of that total number. That number rises yearly as new shooters get involved and costs of licensing and tags go up. There is more recent data available, but the 2013 numbers serve as a stable foundation for the aspects of this article.
It’s no secret that one of the biggest single sources of contribution towards wildlife management comes from the very people who hunt the animals. It’s fitting and appropriate. In fact, it’s essential.
Sure, no one likes overpaying for a tag, license or area access, but it’s part of the process to keep animal counts realistic and allow more hunters to access the types of game that all hunters have historically been drawn to.
Where Can You See the Reports on These Numbers?
The National Sport Shooting Foundation (the organization that runs the SHOT Show) offers updated annual reports, and the NRA publishes data from research studies almost every year. The NRA and GOA (Gun Owners of America), while having a broader based mission than hunting specifically, tend to also offer other types of conservation revenue insights on an occasional basis. Each state will also commission study data annually, but they tend to release them sporadically or under the radar. You can get the best insights to individual state revenues and needs in wildlife management by working on relationships with people in the actual administrative and regulatory capacities in the individual organizations (like Fish and Game Management Bureaus)…more on that later on.
Some Quick Notes About Wildlife Management Nuances
Wildlife management regulations tend to be somewhat pro hunter.
The wildlife management laws tend to favor hunters because hunters are a crucial part of the equation which prevents agri-devastation and population overruns. The cost of tags and other affiliated hunting expenses also represent significant income to the state in most states.
You can usually be reassured the minimum requirements are very well thought-out.
This isn’t a lecture, it’s a reality check, especially for those who are preparing for a once-in-a lifetime or rare hunt. Most of the time, the minimum requirements for caliber in a given jurisdiction is a legitimate indicator of the needs for game in that area. That is: if you are mandated to use at least a .375 H&H Magnum, it is because that is a reasonable gun to use against ALL the game to ensure a clean kill in that region on a hunt.
Regulators of game requirements are surprisingly well-attuned to needs—even if you don’t see that same harmony in other facets of gun-related policymaking. Legislators, especially in the United States, tend to listen to experts and tend to employ very capable people into organizations of Fish and Game Wildlife Management departments. There are some exceptions where ideologies might not match, but overwhelmingly, you find a group of regulators that understands the animals and listens to advice, which leads to good game management.
It is also important to say: the gun culture in America is a very strong check against overzealous legislators even if many of them are not pro-gun. That seems to be true—at least from a game management perspective. Many readers will spark a protest with this statement, but impressively, even in some of the most difficult states, wildlife laws have remained little changed over the past 50 years.
From a macro perspective around the world, hunting tourism and specialty tags are representative of important economic and game management programs which are essential to many communities.
While not an endorsement for irresponsible hunting, it is a recognition of the crucial part hunting of trophies can play in bigger picture policies.
How Can You Get More Involved Than Just Through the Passive Economic Model?
There are hundreds of wildlife management projects happening all the time. The best bet, if you aren’t already affiliated with a hunting club or local game wardens, etc., is to start there. Send an email, explain that you have a desire to contribute time or money or both (or something else), and you’d be surprised how large a percentage of your emails will be met with a well thought-out reply.
If you don’t have a robust group already in place to try to work through, you can try contacting the local offices for your given region and asking for a call-back from administrators. They tend to be a little less in the know, but they can point you in the right direction.
Local gun stores are a good place to find out information too. They tend to be a good hub of information about like-themed projects, and a bulletin board visit or just a chat about it with the owner or normal day-to-day employees could yield good results over time.
Slightly less interesting to many hunters due to some of the political concerns is an outright contribution to a wildlife focused charity/non-profit organization. Yes, you will have to be diligent about your research to ensure you aren’t contributing to causes you aren’t a champion of, but it can be rewarding in a whole different way.
Serving on the board of a non-profit in the space can also be a very rewarding way of making an impact, and while it may be a larger time commitment, it can yield some impressive social and political benefits for those who are civic-minded.
Don’t doubt that your skillsets can help build responsible, well-capable organizations if you put some effort into it.
Note: The author once participated in a desert area watering tank build for migrant deer populations in Southern California, after learning about the event through a local Boy Scout group. The whole project took less than a weekend and showed dramatic results over the subsequent years.
To sum things up, the concept here is to help you understand that despite some bad press in the past, hunting of animals contributes greatly to the insurance policy of wildlife management and will overwhelmingly protect animal population numbers and regulate concerns over the long term. What is important for hunters to understand is that they can work together with wildlife management employees to improve conditions and help support larger, more sustainable populations for trophy targets.
Similarly, it is important to realize that having an understanding of alternative or additional methodologies for contribution can lead to a more rewarding hunting experience because it gives a hunter perspective for what is going on behind the scenes.
Rest assured, your passion for hunting already does a lot to further the sport for generations to come and is helping to keep animal populations in good number ranges which helps to keep forests, watersheds and other ecosystems in good conditions. However, for those who want more, there is always work to be done for conservation.