People come to hunting in many ways, and today this has never been more true or varied. In the end, the reasons behind the gravitation matters not. The only real concern is what you contribute as a hunter.
In the last few months, we have departed from the historical account of hunters from yesteryear on the back page to look at those people making a difference today, where it truly matters. That is the Joe Rogans, Jim Shockeys and Cameron Hanes of the world. Relentless in their efforts to tell the story of hunting in a way which makes it relevant and understandable. We can learn from the history, but we cannot change it, and so this shift has been deliberate. We have presented the influencers and people re-shaping the way we think of ourselves, and how others perceive us as hunters.
I am dedicating the month’s conservation article to the hunting heroes. People who are embracing a new view on the responsibility we have as hunters. The people who are re-writing the hunting narrative.
Who may be this collective group? It’s you…every single person reading this, and every other hunter out there. You all have the potential and the responsibility to act as ambassadors and influence change. That change and shift may be small, but the best chance for our ideals to survive is to act collectedly to the same goal, with the same ethics, moral code and dedication. A dedication which focuses on the wildlife first, but a dedication which is relentless.
It is easy to be pessimistic about the current state of hunting globally. I look back nostalgically at times long passed and the stories from Daniel Boone, Selous, Roosevelt and Corbett with a certain jealousy of what they were able to experience. A wilder world and a time where the hunter was still revered. I know I am not alone in this.
As a kid not yet in my teens I longed to be transported back to those times so I too to chase elephants across a continent and forge new frontiers in North America. I could see even at those naïve years that what lay before me were not the opportunities which my ancestors had enjoyed. Life is certainly easier now, and those men and woman were built hard, but it was most definitely simpler and freer. Old family hunting pictures hung above my bed and adorned the walls of my bedroom in a shrine to the past. I would have to be content with searching out the very best of what was left. That is indeed what I did.
As the years clocked by, and my experience of hunting in different countries grew, my attitude changed. I realised that I had been shellfish in the way I had approached my desire to hunt. Of course, in truth, I hadn’t fully understood the consequences of all my actions, but that is growing up.
An epiphany came one day in my mid-twenties during a car journey somewhere with my dad. As we talked about these great old hunters and what had been. I realised that in that moment, and every moment since was, in fact, the most exciting time to be a hunter. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it before. Not since Roosevelt established the Boone and Crocket club, initiating the great recovery of wildlife in North America, had the hunting community been in a position where our actions will shape future wildlife management and survival in such a drastic way.
The easy option was to dream about times long gone. It is lazy to view our history and accept a present situation which is not at the very least on par. I believe that we are at the tipping point. It is our actions now which will not only define hunting in our lifetime but will put in motion the shape of the next hundred years.
There is no single way to turn the tide of negative it’s felt towards hunting, but it is imperative we find a way. Not for us, not for any commercial gain, but for humanity. We will be poorer the day the last hunter walks because with that we will be faced with a landscape and wildlife decline which may only be released at the point it’s too late.
We have great science supporting ethical, sustainable harvest of wild animals but we need more, and this is a process of understanding interactions and impacts which will never stop. It is the reason my company actively supports and contributes the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. However, this is not enough any more. We need more than science because we are loosing the fight of acceptance.
Vitally we need to acknowledge the educating and a disconnected public is key. We need what we do to be relatable. It is no mean task, and far too little resources have been focused here on our organisations. We have seen recently that to some extent the science doesn’t matter when it comes to decision making. BC closed grizzly hunting, Botswana shut down their big game and Tanzania is going the same way. All places where the science-backed regulated hunting.
We are continually insistent on taking the short view. Yes, the policy to wrangling is important, but for the love of our way of life, someone has to release that this is not enough. Without the will of the people, none of it will matter. Politicians come and go, and in the end, they care mainly predominantly about one thing. How they keep their job at the next election. What is the will of the people? That is the question they ask.
The naivety of the direction we are taking is disturbing, with very little acknowledgement of the social shift around us. Repeatedly we tackle issues with the short-term fix, normally concentrating on telling our own member and community just how great we are.
Right now we see this with the oversupply of game this past season. The immediate issues have been tackle looking predominantly on the basis we simply need to seek more game. The real issue is that we are shooting too many, and too few people shooting are really thinking about their own actions or indeed care. We should be encouraging a greater connection between people on shoot days and their responsibility to consume or share what they are killing.
You can all be a hunting hero. You only need to pick up the mantle.