Governor’s turkey hunt highlights New Hampshire’s rural culture

Word on the street says that hunting is on a national downward trend. That “word” clearly hasn’t reached the hillside haunts of New Hampshire, as thousands of Granite State hunters and trappers still take to the woods each spring and fall to take part in the outdoor pastimes that have been integral to rural New England life.

(Photo | Governor Sununu Facebook)

As of this past weekend, those thousands of hunters include New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, who lent support to a mentored turkey hunt this past weekend as part of a fundraiser for residents in need.

The annual hunt originated from the state’s wildly popular Lend A Helping Can radiothon, which is carried out by local radio show Greg and The Morning Buzz. Proceeds from the fundraiser help with raising money for 11 different food banks in the state. The 2019 spring turkey season in New Hampshire marks the 3rd year a mentored turkey hunt has been an auction item in the event to help raise funds.

The National Wild Turkey Federation works in cooperation with the NH Fish & Game Department to sponsor the hunt, along with several other product sponsors.

“This year we wanted to step it up by offering two hunts for two winners,” says Fred Bird, long-time NH outdoorsman and turkey hunter, who quarterbacks the hunt. “One auction winner gets to hunt with Governor Sununu, while the other hunts with The Morning Buzz radio host Greg Kretchmar.”

“Its been a great opportunity to give back to our community, while being able to highlight conservation and our hunting heritage here in New Hampshire,” Bird continues.

Recent headlines from both pro and anti-hunting camps have cited a perceived decline in hunting-related activities and engagement over the years. So much so, it’s prompted admirable educational and recruitment program roll-outs like the Council To Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports’ popular R-3 system. The R3 movement seeks to “recruit”, “retain” and “reactivate” hunting and outdoor culture across the country.

“With R3 being a favorite buzz word (pun intended) these days, this opportunity actually allows us to put R3 into motion,” says Bird.

Both Governor Sununu and Greg Kretchmar, (as well as other members of The Morning Buzz radio show) have been involved in NH turkey hunting in the past. Earlier this year, Sununu participated in the Learn To Turkey Hunt Mentor Program, which features an entire curriculum covering many of the important nuances of turkey hunting specifically.

The Governor’s most recent hunt featured mentor hunter Tim Slager of Stratham, who joined Fred Bird and Governor Sununu in the woods on Saturday.

“It was great!” says Bird. “The Governor was engaged in the hunt, it wasn’t just a PR commitment for him. There’s something about being in the woods that rests all men no matter their professional level. I think its a great equalizer; hunter versus prey, and we’re all at nature’s mercy. He had a great appreciation for the experience despite the challenging elements and, ultimately, not harvesting a bird on this particular hunt.”

The governor’s involvement and support for the hunt highlights the fact that regardless of how “popular” hunting and trapping activities may or may not be, there are still plenty of New England residents who take part in these highly regulated outdoor pastimes. Heritage aside, regulated hunting and trapping activities assist with hands-on conservation endeavors and promote sustainable use of natural resources. State agencies and reputable conservation organizations promote these activities to bolster healthy wildlife biodiversity for hunters and non-hunters alike.

Although these points haven’t stopped criticism from animal rights groups seeking to end conservation activities such as regulated trapping, land access for turkey hunting, management of abundant predatory species, and repeated attempts to politically deconstruct the NH Fish & Game Department’s current management of wildlife resources.

Suffice to say, while local activists are picking fights with 18-year-old girls over fur coats, and chastising legislative committee chairs over hunting regulations on Twitter, supporters of the Granite State’s hunting culture continue to persevere.

Nationally, one could say hunting and trapping activities aren’t as popular as they once were. What you can’t say, at least for rural New England, is that these activities are dead.

On the contrary, in a polarized and technology-driven world, these activities are still heavily steeped in “native yankee” culture. Kudos to Governor Sununu for recognizing this important cross-section of New Hampshire, and actively engaging for multiple good causes!