Here at F.C. headquarters, we tend to place heavy emphasis on advocacy for regulated outdoor activities that help to promote both an understanding of the natural world, and a hands-on approach to the future conservation and sustainable use of the resources contained within. Hunting and trapping, in a regulated and sustainable fashion, are equal cornerstones of these ideals. Often times when it comes to the preservation of these regulated activities, we discuss the politics, legislation, scientific study and other aspects that surround these outdoor pursuits. While this is all good and well, I must admit we haven’t done our due diligence explaining how YOU can help.
I believe it was Edmund Burke who once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” So here goes; our top ten ways you can help protect, and promote, the future of regulated hunting and trapping in North America.
10. Write a “Letter To The Editor”
You don’t have to be a literary scholar to effectively get your point across. Even as we spiral deeper into the digital age, much of the general populous still reads the newspaper; or a digital version thereof. Historically, a “Letter To The Editor” or “Editorial” publishing is sent in by the readership of a particular newspaper. However nowadays, the Editorial sections of local papers are being used to promote an opinion on a topic in front of a particular regional audience. Its a place to submit your opinion on a given topic and tell your side of the story to a viewing audience around your geographic location. Critics of hunting and trapping have developed this concept well, often times with little or no rebuttal to the sometimes wildly inaccurate information being dictated. Its important to show the “middle-ground” folks (those with no real opinion one way or another) that citizens do in fact still hunt or trap, and are ready and willing to defend it when provoked.
It is important to be polite, courteous, and fact-based when writing an editorial. You can still make your point valid without being hateful, spiteful or derogatory (many of the folks opposed to our way of life do enough of this on their own).
9. Talk to Lawmakers
Despite what you may hear on the nightly news, there are people who make laws and governing decisions outside of Washington DC. Representatives elected to enhance or create laws and regulations exist at the local, state, and national level; and there’s at least one in each category elected to represent YOU as a citizen. Find out who your local elected officials are. Contact them and ask for a moment of time to discuss conservation issues like hunting advocacy. If you’re not much of a face-to-face talker, write an email or hand-written letter. If a legislative bill against hunting comes up, contact these people again and tell them (politely) how you feel and why they should or shouldn’t support a particular legislative bill or restriction. When election time rolls around, speak with those running for office - ask them where they stand on hunting and trapping rights and your future ability to live self reliant off the land. Let them know (again, politely) that how they feel about these issues may impact your decision in the voting booth.
Despite how polarized politics are these days, you have to remember that activities like regulated hunting and trapping should be bi-partisan issues. Don’t shy away from a legislator or representative simply on the grounds of them being Democrat or Republican - you may be surprised to realize that many don’t think about hunting or trapping regularly, and may be interested in what you have to say regardless of political affiliation. All too often lawmakers hear from those against hunting, but not as often from those who take part in it.
8. Testify at Bill Hearings
Government goes to those who show up. Similar to #9, your presence at the public hearing of a legislative bill or bill amendment may make or break the success of that bill’s passage. Let’s face it, many of us who hunt and trap are blue-collar folks with a day job. Ironically enough, many legislative hearings take place during the work week (which I can’t help but feel is by design). Luckily, most hearings only take an hour or two, and its still important to show up to these hearings when you can. Typically each hearing will have sign-in cards where you can write whether you “support” or “oppose” the bill, and also list your name if you would like to speak publicly. If you can’t attend the public hearing, almost every legislative lawmaking procedure has a public comment time to submit written testimony. Similar to a newspaper letter, you can send your thoughts and points in a written or e-mailed letter. Check your state government websites to get further information on the legislative process. This process was designed to protect you, the public citizen - use it.
Public testimony should be brief, fact based, and cordial. You don’t have to show up to a hearing in a suit and tie, but try to leave the shirt with the holes and mustard stains at home.
7. Join a Sportsman’s Club
I should point out that the term “sportsman” is used loosely - women are just as welcome as men. Most states have organized groups that pertain to the support, education, and advancement of outdoor activities. This typically involves state Trapper’s Associations and Fish and Game Clubs. Many states also have their own local chapters of Wildlife Federations, National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, QDMA, and the like. Local sportsmen/sportswomen clubs are a great place to not only gain camaraderie, but also gain insight into local legislation, laws, public relations, education opportunities and local happenings. Many state sportsman’s organizations are also a great place to learn how the legislative process in your state works - and can give you insight into how the process is carried out. It wouldn’t hurt to join national groups as well, many of which have state by state news updates. These groups include Sportsman’s Alliance, RMEF, and The National Trappers Association, to name a few.
6. Share Informational Content
The only way to secure the future of hunting and trapping is to talk about it - intelligently. Did you read a great hunting article in a magazine? Come across a great hunting blog while surfing Facebook? How about an excellent online column written by yours truly (hint hint)? Don’t be afraid to spread the love! Social media has become an information-sharing giant. For much of the first-world populous, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter now dominate our daily lives. While they are a great place to catch up with friends, they’ve also become a marketing dream! Take those positive aspects of hunting and trapping you’ve found on the web and “shout it from the roof-tops” by sharing that content, either on your own social media or in face-to-face conversation.
While the sharing of that big buck or lunker large-mouth bass you bagged this Fall is great, if a limp animal is all your online friends and family ever see, the message may get skewed. Variety is the spice of life. Pepper those hunting pics with some great, positive content about conservation, environmental sustainability, or the wildlife management side of hunting. These important aspects are just as immense as that ten-pointer - and they’ll bolster a better understanding from your non-hunting friends.
Side note: wild game recipes are equally as appealing. Often times, its difficult for the non-hunting public to psychologically connect wild game to that of farm-raised livestock. Showing a venison burger or beaver stew that is as equally tasty as a beef burger or clam chowder helps to show the natural side of hunting for your own food and fur.
5. Share The Harvest
Don’t have online content to share? How about sharing some of your game? I once had a fellow debate me on the morals and purpose of modern beaver trapping. Despite the management side of the activity, he felt strongly that if an animal wasn’t edible, it shouldn’t be killed. Now there’s several issues with a statement like that, but the most important was that he was gravely mistaken on the edibility of Castor canadensis. I challenged him to give me an opportunity to change his mind and furnished two vacuum-sealed beaver backstraps, along with detailed instructions on handling and cooking. Needless to say after eating beaver, he ate crow, and was convinced those sub-aquatic rats were good for more than just a fur pelt. And speaking of that fur pelt, you’d be surprised how supportive your friends and family are when they’re nestled in a locally-grown pair of fur mittens or fur hat during those January snow storms. Additionally, fur garments crafted from animals you legally and humanely trapped make great gifts.
Not too keen on eating rodent? Wild turkey, venison, moose meat, and pheasant are all fine table fare for the wary foodie. Picky eaters? Most states have “Hunt For The Hungry” campaigns where a portion of your hunted harvest can be donated to the needy or local shelters and food pantries. This gift of locally-grown organic protein is rarely turned down.
4. Take A Newbie Afield
As equally important as sharing reports and recipes, is convincing those that don’t hunt, fish or trap that they too can live locally off the land. What better way to protect the future of hunting and trapping than by showing someone else they can hunt and trap as well. Don’t be afraid to show people the ropes - share those subtle tips and tricks to successful hunting that will get them hooked and keep them hooked. I’m not concerned with losing my “secret hunting spot” or sharing the woods with someone if it means one more person advocating for the future of the activity.
In my younger days, I was a student at a local Liberal Arts college; not exactly the best place to find like-minded fur trappers. Be that as it may, this didn’t stop me from taking my curious classmates out on the trapline with me. I don’t expect any of them went on to be long-line trappers, but at least they have a first-hand understanding of what I do in the woods, and that knowledge is powerful the next time a local petition to ban trapping rolls around.
3. Help A Property Owner
According to figures from 2002, over 61% of land in the United States is privately owned. To further emphasize my point, in states like Maine, 90% of their land is privately owned. In other words, odds are good that our ability to live off the land sustainably is (to some degree) contingent on private citizens. Not only are landowners great for giving you access to hunt and trap, they also likely vote too - meaning the impression you leave upon them as a responsible and respectable land user will be carried directly to the voting booth. If they’re dealing with a wildlife conflict situation, offer to assist; whether its sustainable predator management, holes dug by “pesky” woodchucks, or flooding from beavers - wildlife control these days isn’t cheap.
Human pests can have an impact too. Alert your landowner to odd behavior or other trespassers. Much of the land I trap on is owned by folks who actually live elsewhere - they feel good knowing someone is keeping a watchful eye on the property in their absence. If you’re a deer hunter, offer some steaks in trade for the right to hunt their property.
Here in New Hampshire, written landowner permission is required to set traps. Whether I’m paid to deal with a nuisance furbearer issue or not, I carry trash-bags on my person and pick up litter and small debris while I’m walking a property. Its my way to not only beautify the environment I’m in, but also lend a hand to a generous landowner. These small gestures go a long way with your landowners and the general public.
2. Support Your State Agency
I may be wrong, but I don’t know of too many state wildlife agencies that are opposed to ethical hunting and trapping activities. You may have had that bad run-in with a Conservation Officer or policy maker, but understand, these agencies are made up of a lot of people, and as a whole are deserving of our support. Many state-appointed biologists and wildlife management professionals get their important data and information directly from YOU: the hunter or trapper. Its important to try to put differences aside and work cohesively for the betterment of conservation and our natural resources - especially at a time when our society is dramatically losing touch with the key fundamentals of nature.
When restrictive legislation does rear its ugly head, many times state wildlife managers can shed light on important factual data and points of view promoting the regulated use of these natural resources. State agencies need hunters and trappers on the landscape, and to a degree, if we’re going to argue the support of continued conservation - we need them too. Offer to submit reports on critters seen in the woods. Volunteer your trapping expertise to a study when there’s a need to live-capture wild animals for testing. Give input into laws and regulations to ensure your point of view is being considered. Volunteer to become a hunter or trapper education instructor to assist with certifying new blood to the activity. And most importantly, when your state agency releases good information that promotes the regulated activities of hunting and trapping, help promote that message.
The less presence the hunting community has within our state agencies, the more some may perceive these activities as unimportant to both conservation and input on decision-making.
1. Support Each other
This one goes without saying, but its also quite possibly the biggest detriment to modern hunting and trapping, and directly impacts our future as a whole. Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."
When each of you took your hunting or trapping education classes, you learned about concepts like carrying capacity, wildlife management, and conservation. The hunting decal on the back of your F-250 doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t support the other aspects of conservation that go along with its meaning. It really doesn’t matter how much you spent on your duck blind, or which Pro-Staff you belong to; if you aren’t willing to recognize and support the other aspects of outdoor wildlife conservation, such as fur trapping or bear hunting, your Real-Tree camo pajamas are nothing more than a fashion statement.
More than 90 million U.S. residents (16 years old and older) participated in some form of wildlife-related recreation in 2011 alone – the fact that we constantly fight to keep trapping and hunting alive in our states is, frankly, a downright embarrassment.
Recognize each-other for the outdoor roles we all play, and stand as one cohesive voice for the future and sustainable use of natural resources. Otherwise, we might as well inscribe our activities of stalking deer and trapping muskrats on the walls of some abandoned inner-city building for future generations to discuss in an ancient history class.