Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog

Why Hunting Isn’t Conservation, and Why It Matters

laura c carlson, Canid Collapse, graphite, watercolor, and mulberry ink, 2020

By Kevin Bixby
Featured Image (c) laura c carlsonCanid Collapse, graphite, watercolor, and mulberry ink, 2020

Why Hunting Isn’t Conservation, and Why It Matters

In late December 2014, I received a call from a friend. He and his wife had made a gruesome discovery while exploring the desert outside of Las Cruces. They had stumbled upon the bodies of 39 dead coyotes.

I knew what had happened.

Wildlife killing contests are just what the name suggests. Participants compete for prizes to see who can kill the most coyotes, bobcats, foxes or whatever the target species happens to be. The animals are not eaten, nor are their pelts generally taken. They are simply killed for fun and profit. After the prizes are awarded, the victims are unceremoniously dumped, often by the side of the road.

Coyote (Canis latrans)

Coyote (Canis latrans) (c) Larry Master,

The coyotes my friend found had been shot in a killing contest held the previous week by a local predator hunting club. I had been tracking the group on Facebook. “Smoke a pack a day” emblazoned over a photo of a dead coyote was one of their favorite memes.

Normal people find these events abhorrent. The hunters I know do not participate in them and tell me privately that they find them distasteful. But few hunting organizations have taken a public position against them[i], and many, like the Sportsmen’s Alliance and Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, oppose efforts to ban them. The fact that the public face of the hunting community condones wildlife killing contests, and that these competitions remain legal in all but six states, is emblematic of the deep divide over wildlife management in the U.S. today.

A System in Need of Reform

It is sometimes said that hunting is conservation. The idea is expressed in various ways—hunters pay for conservation, hunters are the true conservationists, hunting is needed to manage wildlife—but they all suggest that hunters, and hunting, are indispensable to the continued survival of wildlife in America.[ii]

As an occasional hunter who has spent my entire career in wildlife conservation, I disagree. Hunting can be many things—family tradition, outdoor recreation, a source of healthy meat—but the claim that hunting is the same as conservation just isn’t supported by the facts.

But there’s more to the statement than harmless hyperbole. The assertion that hunting is conservation has unmistakable meaning in the culture wars. It has become a rallying cry in the battle over America’s wildlife, part of a narrative employed to defend a system of wildlife management built around values of domination and exploitation of wild “other” lives, controlled by hunters and their allies, that seems increasingly out of step with modern ecological understanding, changing public attitudes and a global extinction crisis.

In August 2018, more than 100 advocates and academics from around the country gathered in Albuquerque to talk about how to transform state wildlife management.  It was the first national conference held on the topic.

Some speakers decried the fundamentally undemocratic nature of state wildlife decision making. Others recited the litany of state wildlife management failures, such as sanctioning controversial practices opposed by most people, e.g. trophy hunting and leghold trapping. Underlying all this animus was a shared sense that states are not doing nearly enough to protect wildlife, and that the root problem is the stranglehold hunters, as an interest group, have on state wildlife management.

The issue is hugely significant in conservation circles. States play a critical role in wildlife management, sharing legal jurisdiction over wildlife with the federal government. The conventional wisdom is that the feds are responsible for a subset of organisms—threatened and endangered species listed under the Endangered Species Act, migratory birds protected by international treaties—while the states have authority over everything else (except on Native American lands, where tribes have jurisdiction). Although not everyone agrees with this assessment,[iii] the reality in America today is that, for most wild animals, states dictate how they are used, by whom, and if they are protected at all.

So who are the proponents of the hunting as conservation idea? Not surprisingly, they include organizations that promote hunting, such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation whose “Twenty-five Reasons Why Hunting is Conservation” is probably the most elaborate articulation of the concept. The hunting as conservation view is also popular with gun groups like the National Rifle Association that like to conflate their second amendment advocacy with a “defense” of the hunting tradition. But it might be unexpected, and disconcerting, to learn that this view is also widely shared by the state and federal agencies charged with protecting America’s wildlife.

What these entities all have in common is a vested interest in preserving the status quo in wildlife management in the U.S.—a system that was developed to a large extent by hunters, is supported financially by hunters, and continues to be operated primarily for the benefit of hunters.

Elk (Cervus elaphus) – bull and young bull (c) Larry Master,

This is especially true at the state level where hunters are disproportionately represented on appointed wildlife commissions, where wildlife agencies overseen or advised by those commissions are staffed largely by people who are either hunters themselves or share their values, and where the opinions of the 82 percent of the public that do not hunt or fish are routinely discounted or ignored.

I want to be clear. Hunters deserve a great deal of credit for their historic role in saving some of America’s “game” species (i.e. species pursued by hunters, such as white-tailed deer, bighorn sheep, elk and pronghorn). Without their organizing and lobbying for game protection laws and their willingness to purchase licenses that generated revenue for the enforcement of those laws, these species might have disappeared. However, the institution of wildlife management that hunters helped to create, and that today exists primarily to serve hunters, is simply not focused nor equipped to meet the extraordinary challenge of preserving species and ecosystems in the face of a mass extinction crisis that is unraveling the fabric of life everywhere.

Teddy Roosevelt and the Rise of the “Sport” Hunter

To understand how the current system came to exist, we need to look at the history of wildlife in America over the past century and a half, a time span that encompasses the most efficient destruction of wildlife in human history. The steady retreat of wildlife in the face of European settlement greatly accelerated after the Civil War, when a convergence of technological, social and economic factors ignited a massive expansion of market hunting to satisfy the demand for wild meat, hides, furs and feathers. In the absence of any effective regulations to control this free-for-all, staggering numbers of animals were killed in the course of just a few decades. An estimated 10-12 million bison in 1865[iv] were reduced to approximately one thousand in all of North America in 1890. Massive numbers of pronghorn, bighorn sheep, elk and deer were also killed. Passenger pigeons were hunted to extinction.

In response, influential recreational hunters like Teddy Roosevelt, George Grinnell, and Gifford Pinchot began to organize in the late 1800s into groups like the Boone and Crockett Club and lobby for game laws to protect the species they enjoyed hunting. Over time, “sport” hunters became a major source of funding for state wildlife agencies through their purchase of licenses and later through their payment of federal taxes on equipment used for hunting and fishing. Hunters remain a significant source of agency revenues today. Not surprisingly, agencies came to view hunters as their most important constituents.

This financial relationship aligned nicely with the prevailing view of conservation during the same period, which was focused on restoring depleted game populations and managing them to produce a “harvestable surplus” for the benefit of hunters. Aldo Leopold, often considered the father of modern wildlife management, defined game management in his influential 1933 book on the subject as “…the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use.”

Theodore Roosevelt on horseback

Theodore Roosevelt on horseback. (ca. 1910. March 14. Photograph. Dawson, Warrington.

He likened it to other forms of agriculture where various factors needed to be controlled in order to enhance the yield, which, in the case of game animals, included things like regulating hunting and killing predators. This approach led to the successful rescue of certain game species from near extinction.

Although Leopold embraced a more ecological perspective in later writings, much of wildlife management as practiced in the U.S. today still reflects his earlier agricultural view. As the concept of conservation has evolved, state wildlife institutions and policies haven’t kept pace.

We now understand that species interact as parts of ecosystems, and that these systems generate the services—clean air and water, healthy soils, pollination, medicines, etc.—that sustain all life on the planet, including humans. In this holistic view, all species are important.

The context for conservation has changed dramatically as well. The world is currently undergoing a mass extinction crisis in which plants and animals around the world are disappearing at a frightening rate due to a host of human activities. Since 1970, North America has seen a 29 percent drop in bird numbers. Populations of terrestrial vertebrates—mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians—have declined by an average of 60 percent across the globe in this period. Insect numbers are plummeting worldwide. An estimated one million species are now facing extinction. Scientists have called this a “biological annihilation” and warn that urgent action is needed to stop it.

Informed by these facts, the goal of wildlife conservation is, or ought to be, to protect and restore the diversity of life at all levels; but that remains less important to state wildlife managers than ensuring a harvestable surplus of game animals for human hunters. To be fair, most states also have programs to protect endangered and threatened species, but these tend to be underfunded and a lower priority than game management programs.

I would add that any definition of conservation that does not include a measure of compassion and justice for individual animals is out of step with public attitudes, which are moving away from regarding wildlife as strictly a resource for human use and toward respecting wild creatures for their intrinsic right to exist as well. Killing contests are a prime example. While they don’t usually cause a long-term decline in populations of targeted species, and are legal in most states, most people find these events immoral and not in keeping with a conservation paradigm that includes concern for individual animals.

Game Management vs Wildlife Conservation

The on-the-ground differences between ecological-based conservation versus traditional wildlife management are often dramatic. There are countless examples of this, but let’s look at three general categories: exotic species, “nongame” animals, and carnivores.

The introduction of alien species around the world is recognized by biologists today as a major threat to biodiversity. In the past, however, exotic game animals were brought in by state wildlife managers to provide novel hunting opportunities. In my state, the New Mexico Game and Fish Department maintains huntable populations of several introduced ungulates (oryx, barbary sheep, and ibex) despite their competition with native species and the ecological havoc they wreak.

While most states are no longer in the business of importing exotic terrestrial animals, fish are a different story.  States continue to raise and stock literally millions[v] of non-native fish in their waters every year, solely for the benefit of anglers. These introduced fish often prey on, hybridize with, or compete with native fishes and harm aquatic ecosystems. New Mexico dumps more than 15 million non-native fish into the state’s waterways annually, all of them predatory species like rainbow trout and walleye. Some of these naïve captive-raised fish, which frequently don’t survive more than a few weeks in the wild because they fall easy prey to human anglers or other predators, have to be obtained from other states to meet perceived demand.

When it comes to fish, state wildlife agencies are, in effect, operating as monopoly industries. They have co-opted a public resource—native aquatic ecosystems—in order to produce a consumer product—fishing opportunities for non-native fish—which they then sell to generate revenues for themselves.[vi] The agencies exercise exclusive control over access to their product—you can’t fish in a public water without a license—and their high volume stocking programs maintain consumer demand (“angler expectation”) for their product at a level far beyond what could be satisfied by native fish populations alone. These “put and take” stocking programs sell a lot of licenses, but to say they have anything to do with conservation is ludicrous, and irresponsible, given that freshwater fishes as a group are more endangered and going extinct faster than other vertebrates worldwide.

Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) (c) Larry Master,

Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) (c) Larry Master,

The divergence in management results is also apparent in how “nongame” species are treated.  Prairie dogs, for example, are considered by biologists to be a keystone species because of their outsized ecological importance. Approximately 170 other vertebrate species depend on prairie dogs in one way or another. Conservation-driven management would prioritize their restoration and protection; but in most states where they exist, prairie dogs are considered pests and used for target practice and killing contests.

The disparity between game management and ecologically-focused conservation is nowhere more evident than when it comes to native carnivores. Top predators like wolves and mountain lions play a vital role in ecosystems. Most were wiped out from large parts of their historic ranges by the mid-20th century. Conservation would prioritize restoring them as widely as possible across the landscape, but hunting-driven management seeks to do just the opposite.

Carnivores have historically been vilified by hunters and wildlife managers as competitors for game animals and threats to livestock, and that attitude is reflected in state policies today. Coyotes are unprotected and persecuted in most states. Where wolves have been taken off the federal endangered species list, states have responded by subjecting them to intensive hunting and trapping intended to suppress their numbers to keep them just above the level that would trigger federal oversight again. Wyoming allows wolves to be killed year-round, with no limits, over 85 percent of the state. Idaho’s wildlife agency pays shooters to kill wolves in remote wilderness areas and has reinstituted bounties on them.

The argument is often made by defenders of the status quo that, without hunting, wildlife populations would grow unchecked and run amok, but this is not supported by science. Leaving aside the question of what happened in the millions of years before modern humans appeared, there is ample evidence that top carnivores such as wolves, mountain lions, bears and coyotes, regulate their own numbers. They do this by defending territories, limiting reproduction to alpha individuals within a group, investing in lengthy parental care, and infanticide. Hunting is not needed to keep populations of top predators in check; and indeed, it has the opposite effect, because it disrupts the social interactions through which self-regulation is achieved.

Predation can influence the numbers of ungulates like deer and elk, but by which predators? Most state wildlife managers oppose the reintroduction of top carnivores that have been extirpated from their borders, or if they are present, try to keep their numbers artificially low to reduce competition for game animals with human hunters. In essence, then, past and current management policies, driven by antipathy toward carnivores and a desire to improve hunting success, have created a “problem”—scarcity of predators—to which hunting is offered as the only “solution.”

The Myth that Hunters Pay for Conservation

Probably the most common reason for claiming that hunting is conservation, and for justifying hunters’ privileged status in wildlife matters, is that hunters contribute more money than non-hunters to wildlife conservation, in what is usually described in positive terms as a “user pays, public benefits” model.  That is, the “users” of wild animals—hunters—pay for their management, and everyone else gets to enjoy them for free, managers commonly claim.

This is disputable. The financial contribution of hunters to agency coffers, while significant, is nearly always overstated.

It is true that hunters contribute substantially to two sources of funding which comprise almost 60 percent, on average, of state wildlife agency budgets: license fees and federal excise taxes. But there are at least three major problems in leaping from this fact to the conclusion that hunters are the ones who “pay for conservation.”

First, as discussed, there is a considerable difference between conservation and what state wildlife agencies actually do.  Secondly, even if one assumes that everything state wildlife agencies do constitutes conservation, much of their funding still comes from non-hunters, as explained below. And third, some of the most important wildlife conservation efforts take place outside of state wildlife agencies and are funded mainly by the general public.

State wildlife agencies undertake a wide variety of activities, including setting and enforcing hunting regulations, administering license sales, providing hunter safety and education programs, securing access for hunting and fishing, constructing and operating firearm ranges, operating fish hatcheries and stocking programs, controlling predators, managing land, improving habitat, responding to complaints, conducting research and public education, and protecting endangered species. A substantial portion of these activities are clearly aimed at managing opportunities for hunting and fishing, and not necessarily the conservation of wildlife.

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) (c) Larry Master,

The second problem with saying that hunters are the ones who foot the bill for conservation is that it discounts the substantial financial contributions of non-hunters. To begin with, more than 40 percent of state wildlife agency revenues, on average, are from sources not tied to hunting. These vary by state, but include general funds, lottery receipts, speeding tickets, vehicle license sales, general sales taxes, sales taxes on outdoor recreation equipment, and income tax check-offs.

In addition, the non-hunting public contributes more to another significant source of wildlife agency revenues—federal excise taxes—than is generally acknowledged. These taxes are levied on a number of items, including handguns and their ammunition, and fuel for jet skis and lawnmowers, that are rarely purchased for use in hunting or fishing. Although exact numbers are hard to come by, my initial calculations suggest that non-hunters account for at least one-third of these taxes, and probably a lot more.

Third, significant wildlife conservation takes place outside state agencies, as others have pointed out, and it is mostly the non-hunting public that pays for this. For example, more than one quarter of the U.S. is federal public land managed by four agencies—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service. These 600-plus million acres are vital to wildlife, providing habitat for thousands of species, including hundreds of endangered and threatened animals. The cost to manage these lands is shared more or less equally by the taxpaying public. (Hunters also contribute to public land conservation by mandatory purchases of habitat stamps and voluntary purchases of duck stamps, but these are relatively insignificant compared to tax revenues.)

Wildlife for All?

Even it were true that hunters contribute more financially to agency budgets than non-hunters, it’s worth asking if that means they deserve a greater voice in wildlife decisions. Is it fair that one, small user group—hunters—monopolize wildlife management simply because a system has evolved under which their expenditures, opaque (excise taxes) and involuntary (license fees) as they are, end up supporting the agencies tasked with protecting wildlife more than does the non-hunting public?  Another user group—wildlife watchers—are nearly twice as numerous as hunters, according to a 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) survey. Yet another “user” group is even larger: all of us, because we all “use” wildlife to keep ecosystems healthy and benefit from the results. Why should these groups be relegated to minority status, or excluded entirely, when it comes to deciding how wildlife is managed?

Under our system of law, wildlife is considered a public trust. Wild animals do not belong to anybody. The government as trustee is expected to manage wildlife for the benefit of the public, including future generations, and balance competing uses to ensure that the trust is not harmed and the broad public interest is served. It is antithetical to this concept that one group would be granted greater access to wildlife because, for whatever reason, they contribute more financially to its management. It would be like saying that only rich people should be allowed to send their kids to public schools because they pay more in taxes.

It is a question of equity. Everyone benefits from wildlife, everyone should share in the cost of protecting wildlife, and everyone deserves a say in determining how best to conserve wildlife.  If hunters’ claim that they pay more than their share for wildlife conservation is true, the solution is not to exclude others from a seat at the table, but to find new, more equitable sources of funding to support the work.

Struggle for Power

If the idea that “hunting is conservation” is not factually true, why does it continue to have currency? The answer, I believe, has to do with a struggle over power, identity and values. Wildlife management is now firmly ensconced in the culture wars.

The public is increasingly concerned about wildlife and wants a voice in management, something that has long been the exclusive purview of hunters and their allies. Promoting a narrative that wildlife can’t survive without hunters is part of a larger effort to defend the status quo in wildlife governance by those who currently enjoy privileged status and don’t want to give it up.

As with many other social inequities in America today, the people who hold disproportionate power when it comes to wildlife are mostly white men. Hunters and anglers are 74 percent male and 80 percent white (non-Hispanic), according to the 2016 FWS survey. Looking just at hunters, the demographics are even more skewed. Eighty-nine percent are male and 96 percent are white (non-Hispanic). This demographic bias is reflected at state wildlife agencies where 72 percent of personnel are male and more than 90 percent are white.

It could be argued that the undemocratic nature of the current system of wildlife management is a legacy of its elitist origins in which affluent white men like Teddy Roosevelt played such an important role. The term “sportsmen” was adopted, at least in part, to distinguish men of means who hunted for fun rather than for subsistence or market. The roster of the Boone and Crockett Club in its early years reads like a who’s who of New York high society. These individuals were instrumental in getting laws passed to protect game animals, but one wonders if their influential role in shaping the system that emerged also imbued it with a sense of entitlement for men like themselves.

Efforts to equate hunting with conservation gained momentum in the mid-1990s in response to mounting challenges to the status quo. The number of hunters was declining, relative to the general population. Litigation by advocacy groups to protect species under the federal Endangered Species Act was on the rise. State wildlife managers viewed these lawsuits as a threat to their management authority, and still do.

This was about the time that the Ukrainian-born Canadian wildlife biologist (and hunter) Valerius Geist came up with the idea of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. As he described it in a 2001 article he co-authored entitled “Why hunting has defined the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation,” recreational hunters were the ones who rescued wildlife from extinction, built the system of wildlife management we have today, and continue to make the most significant contributions to conservation. By implication, he suggested that the interests of hunters should be prioritized over those of other stakeholders.

A full discussion of the North American Model is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say that it has rapidly become something of a sacred doctrine in wildlife management circles, widely heralded as the premier model of wildlife conservation in the world. The problem that is it is both an incomplete framing of history which downplays the contributions of non-hunters, and it is an inadequate set of guidelines for preserving species and ecosystems in the face of the current mass extinction crisis. Nonetheless, its unchallenged acceptance within the wildlife management community has helped fuel the narrative that hunting is indispensable to conservation.

It was around this time also that hunters and their allies began to respond to perceived threats to their control of wildlife decision-making by passing right-to-hunt laws and amendments to their constitutions that affirmed the right of their residents to hunt, fish and trap. Adopting language advocated by groups such as the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, these measures often enshrined hunting as the preferred method of wildlife management and protected “traditional” methods of hunting which were often controversial, such as using dogs or bait stations. Alabama was the first to pass such as law in 1996 (excluding Vermont, which passed its law in 1777). At last count, 27 states have enacted them.

The struggle over wildlife reflects a clash of competing values. In a 2018 national survey, researchers identified two major orientations toward wildlife, which they called domination and mutualism. People with domination values tend to believe that animals are subordinate and should be used for the benefit of humans. Those with a mutualistic bent embrace the idea that animals are part of their extended social network and possess intrinsic rights to exist. These orientations shape not just a person’s attitudes toward wildlife but the way they view the world in general.

Among the general public, more people hold a mutualistic outlook (35%) than domination (28%).[vii]  The mutualistic orientation has been ascendant in the U.S. at least since 2004, according to the survey. Hunters and wildlife managers, on the other hand, tend to hold a domination orientation—a set of values that are in retreat.

As people tend to do when they perceive their values and personal identity to be under attack,  those of the domination perspective resist change. The hunting as conservation narrative is part of that resistance. So too is the strident rhetoric employed by many hunting and gun groups to characterize any perceived critique of the status quo as an attack on their hunting “tradition.”  I find the quickness of these groups to attribute even modest proposals for change as representing the spear tip of a chimerical “radical anti-hunting, animal rights” agenda baffling, since the general public overwhelmingly approves of hunting for food, as do most major wildlife groups. Even the Humane Society of the U.S., frequently identified by those in the hunting community as their arch enemy, does not oppose hunting for food.

The domination orientation that prevails among hunters and wildlife managers leaves little room for a definition of conservation that includes consideration of the rights or interests of individual animals. Traditional wildlife management is concerned almost exclusively with the status of animals in the aggregate, i.e. populations and species. Talk of animals having rights—for instance, the right to not be subjected to cruel methods of capture such as leghold traps, or to not have their families broken apart as invariably happens when intensely social animals like wolves and coyotes are killed by hunters—is dismissed as soft-headedness.

Hunters and their allies are quick to assert that wildlife management decisions should be dictated solely by science, not emotion, as if science could adjudicate among what are essentially value matters. Science can tell us, for example, how many mountain lions can be removed by hunters without causing an unsustainable decline in their numbers, but it can’t tell us whether we ought to be hunting mountain lions in the first place. Under our current system of wildlife management, it is simply assumed that if hunters want to hunt an animal, and the species is not endangered, then hunting will be allowed, regardless of public opinion.

Cougar (Puma concolor) - captive

Mountain lion aka Cougar (Puma concolor) (c) Larry Master,

This is why wildlife advocates have launched dozens of ballot and legislative initiatives since 1990 dealing with controversial wildlife-related matters aimed at circumventing state agencies and commissions. Not surprisingly, hunting groups and wildlife managers generally oppose these efforts, which they deride as “ballot box biology.”

It is possible to see a connection between the efforts to democratize wildlife management with other social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. Just as not all cops are racist, neither do all hunters view the world through a domination lens. But like police, hunters are participants in a system that has its origins in the desire to control and exploit the less powerful, in this case wild animals.

Wildlife Conservation at the Crossroads

For their part, state wildlife agencies face a dilemma. As the already small number of hunters continues to decline, the agencies are threatened with a loss of revenues while facing demands from the non-hunting public to take on more responsibilities. They have two choices. They can embrace a more ecological mission and new constituencies, or they can double down on the status quo by trying to convince more people to take up hunting and fishing.

Many state agencies seem to prefer the latter approach. Every state wildlife agency now has a Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (3R) program designed to increase participation in hunting and fishing. Nationally, there is an effort to “modernize” the Pittman Robertson Act to allow states to use Pittman Robertson funding for 3R programs, something that is currently not permitted. This is a legislative priority of the Association of State Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which bills itself as the voice of state wildlife agencies.

To be fair, state wildlife agencies cannot magically create new funding on their own. Legislatures have to approve new funding mechanisms, which few have been willing to do.

It’s unfortunate that we’re having this debate in America over wildlife management because it distracts from the urgent business at hand. The challenge of protecting biodiversity in the face of the ongoing mass extinction crisis is enormous. Scientists warn us we have maybe a decade remaining before we reach a tipping point for protecting biodiversity as well as avoiding irreversible effects of climate change. Both are existential threats to human society and life on Earth, and neither crisis can be solved without protecting and restoring intact ecosystems and species. There is a growing call among scientists to prioritize biodiversity preservation on half of Earth’s land area and seas by 2050. This improbably ambitious goal—currently less than 15 percent of land and about 5 percent of the oceans are protected—is increasingly seen as a crucial step for dealing with these interconnected crises.

In contrast to nearly every other nation in the world, the U.S. does not have a national biodiversity action plan. We may never have one under our federalist system. To preserve the diversity of life in this country, we need the states to be leaders, not obstacles, and that won’t happen without a radical reinvisioning of wildlife management at the state level.

The steps in that transformation are clear. It begins with new marching orders. State legislatures need to equip their wildlife agencies with the mandate and legal authority to protect all species, including invertebrates, which are essential to ecosystem functioning. Many states currently lack this comprehensive authority. In New Mexico, for example, the Department of Game and Fish has only been delegated legal authority over about 60 percent of the state’s vertebrates, despite the fact that the state is home to more species of birds, reptiles and mammals than almost anywhere else in the U.S.

Legislators also need to provide their wildlife agencies with the resources to support their expanded missions, including new funding sources that are not tied to hunting. For one thing, it is not fair to saddle hunters with more of the financial burden of protecting wildlife. The public should share this burden broadly. Secondly, state wildlife agencies will be reluctant to embrace a broader mission and new constituencies if their longstanding financial dependency on hunters is not severed.

States also need to democratize wildlife decision-making. In most states, the wildlife agency is overseen or advised by a commission, whose members are usually appointed by the governor. Hunters constitute a majority on most of these boards. If wildlife is a public trust, shouldn’t the general public be better represented on commissions tasked with managing that trust? There will always be a seat at the table for hunters, but it’s long past time to start appointing more people to represent the overwhelming majority of the public that does not hunt.

And finally, state wildlife agencies need to welcome new partners. Preserving nature in the face of the current extinction crisis is a massive challenge. Wildlife managers will need broad public support to be successful, but first they must earn the trust of the non-hunting public.

A good first step is to stop saying that hunting is conservation. At best, this statement acknowledges the historic role hunters have played in protecting America’s wildlife. At worst, it is inaccurate, polarizing, and a distraction from the real work. Like other monuments to the past that now serve to divide, it needs to come down.


[i] Of the more than 50 major hunting organizations that are members of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners, none publicly opposes wildlife killing contests.

[ii] For the purposes of this article, the term “hunting” includes both hunting and fishing.

[iii] One speaker at the conference, University of Montana’s Martin Nie, gave a presentation based on his lengthy law journal article entitled “Fish & Wildlife Management on Federal Lands: Debunking State Supremacy.”

[iv] Per environmental historian Dan Flores in his book American Serengeti. Others have put the number of bison at this time higher.

[v] Information gleaned from state wildlife agency websites puts the number well over one billion.

[vi] Every state has enacted a law, as a condition of eligibility to receive federal grants under the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, requiring that revenues from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses cannot be used for anything other than the administration of its wildlife agency.

[vii] A substantial number of people (21%) score high on both scales, while another 15 percent show little interest in wildlife and score low on both scales.

Wildfires in Southern Idaho Affect Hunting Opportunities

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced closures south of Twin Falls

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Wildlife officials in Idaho have closed some forest areas statewide, affecting hunters and other recreationists during record-breaking fires across the West.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced closures south of Twin Falls in the Sawtooth National Forest, affecting big game hunts for hundreds with tags for deer, elk and pronghorn, the Boise State Public Radio reported.

More than 139 square miles (360 square kilometers) have burned in the region.

“I think that’s one of the great things about public lands, in particular, is that you can pick up camp and go someplace else.”

Fires can improve landscapes and wildlife habitats but poor forest management and climate change have made fire behaviors unpredictable, Tawney said, adding that it could affect hunters even after the fire is out because of unstable trees.

“You have to worry about widowmakers from all the trees that are left,” he said, “so sometimes those have been shut down even after the fire is out.”

The U.S. Forest Service has also implemented closures this year in the Payette National Forest and the Boise National Forest because of nearby fires.

7 million acres of private land available for hunters

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Over 7 million acres of private land is now available for hunters and other recreationists to use during the 2020 hunting season.<br><p>{/p}
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For decades, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials have asked private landowners across the state to participate in the Block Management Program.

Private landowners can work with FWP to enroll their land in the program. It helps landowners manage hunting activities and provides the public with free hunting access to private land.

This season more than 1,200 private landowners enrolled in the program.

Over 7 million acres of private land is now available for hunters and other recreationists to use during the 2020 hunting season.

Landowners do not forfeit any private property rights by enrolling in the program, including the right to deny access for cause and the right to enforce ranch rules.

Dillion Tabish, FWP spokesman, said this is an unique opportunity for the public.

Hunters can pick up a copy of the 2020 hunting access guide along with several maps that allow them to identify which block management area they wish to hunt, or they can visit the website.

Hunters can use the access guide and maps to identify a region and block management area. From there, they need to identify if that area is Type 1 or Type 2.

Type 1 BMA areas are where hunters administer their own permission and they do not require permission from the private landowner. Type 1 does not limit hunter numbers or require reservations.

Type 2 BMA areas are where someone other than the hunter issues permission to use the land. This includes BMAs where the landowner or a FWP staff member issues permission. Type 2 often requires reservations and limits hunter numbers.

The 2020 Hunting Access Guide is broken down by region. From there, hunters can read about the general location of the BMA, identify how many acres are available, learn if it is Type 1 or Type 2 and read the primary hunting opportunities on the land.

There is also an additional column in the book that provides information from landowners, such as restrictions or who to contact for permission.

Tabish said it is entirely up to the landowner how they wish to have their land utilized, and it is the responsibility of the hunter to follow those guidelines and respect the land.

“For a program like this to succeed, hunters need to respect the land owners, they need to respect the rules, and it’s just so important for them to know what the rules are for where they want to go,” said Tabish.

The program is funded primarily through the sales of nonresident licenses. Tabish said that money then goes back to the landowners as compensation for allowing hunting on their land.

“This is something that I think is really neat to Montana, and it really speaks to Montanans’ spirit of working together, providing access and being respectful to private landowners,” said Tabish.

The land is for everyone — residents and nonresident hunters.

Hunters must obtain the proper hunting license, know when the hunting seasons are and follow all of the hunting laws and regulations.

For a list of the 2020-21 hunting seasons visit their website.

For a list of Montana hunting regulations click here.

To apply for a Montana hunting license click here.

Local hunter’s take on increase in hunting during pandemic

SIOUX CITY (KTIV) — Ahead of the opening of the archery and crossbow deer hunting seasons, one hunter said this hobby has always been important to him.

Josh Weltz believes the recent increase in popularity is yet another indication that the pandemic is driving more people into the outdoors.

“I know our Iowa Bow Hunter’s Facebook group has definitely exploded recently as far as member numbers, so I think a lot of people are starting to get more interested in the idea of spending time outside hunting, fishing, that kind of stuff,” said Weltz.

Weltz said more people have wanted to learn about where their food comes from and about harvesting large, long-term meat supplies.

“For me one big one is the relationship with the food. I know where my food is coming from, and harvesting that myself, the challenge of it, it’s difficult,” said Weltz.

He said that interest is naturally going to point those people in the direction of bow hunting.

“It’s a big rabbit hole you can go down, so there’s a lot to it. But a good place to start would be social media just to kind of get the base line for how you need to break into it.”

For any new or inexperienced hunters, Weltz wants to remind them to get proper tool training before hitting the fields this season.

Game wardens expect Covid-19 could produce a record hunting season

Game wardens expect Covid-19 could produce a record hunting season

With the cancellation or postponement of numerous East Texas events, some may now be turning to something not canceled.


Game wardens believe this hunting season could be one of the busiest on record.

A Saturday hunters education class in Gregg county includes several new hunters.

A trend that could be going up because of Covid 19.

“With all of the Covid-19 measurements in place, people are wanting to social distance themselves and what better place that outdoors hunting and fishing. We’re expecting a larger number of folks in the woods,” says Gregg county game warden Todd Long.

“Sales are through the roof. Never seen anything like it. Guns, ammo, accessories, magazines, you name it. People are just going crazy,” says Logan Green of Ark-La-Tex guns & more in Gilmer.

In 2019, Texas had the highest number of registered firearms, more than 715-thousand, according to the ATF. And lots of first-timers.

“My daughter decided she wanted to come hunting with me. Ready to go hunting, always loved the outdoors,” said Byron Eldridge.

“I really don’t know why, it just seems fun and i want to do it,” says daughter Kaitlynn.

“We’ve had a bunch of people come in saying they’re ready for hunting season to start because everything insides closed and stuff like that,” Green says.

Gun sales in the Texas appear to already be setting record highs based on statistics from the FBI’s national instant criminal background check system. And game wardens are promoting safety above all.

According to U-S Fish & Wildlife, Texas resident hunting licenses, tags and permits for 2020 are estimated at over 1-million-6-hundred -50 thousand.

Opinion: Anti-hunting letter filled with ‘illogical framing’

I understand Richmond attorney Rebeka Breder is deeply disturbed by hunting and she offered her complaints in a Burnaby Now op-ed column that ran on14 September 2020. (  However, she misrepresents the case against hunting with omissions, factual errors and illogical framing.

As a trained lawyer, she must understand such argumentation. I am not a lawyer, rather a professional biologist and I offer some research results and clarifications.  I directly address the underlined quotes from her letter below:

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“. . . ducks, who mate for life, . .  Actually, ducks do not mate for life. Most only mate for five months before the males (drakes) abandon the incubating hens to search for new breeding opportunities. Geese sometimes mate for life but also “divorce” due to low fitness, infertility, or death. Re-pairing occurs quickly. Goose populations of parks, fields and golf courses today are at nuisance levels 1300% higher than 1900. Thousands of young geese slowly starve unseen each year on the arctic tundra as a result of overgrazing there.

“. . . and [ducks] are in the midst of resting and feeding before their thousand-kilometer migration flight. . .”  Most Lower Mainland ducks filter through from Alaska throughout the fall to overwinter in California and Mexico (lucky birds!). They dawdle in agricultural fields between the frontal systems that efficiently propel them southward.

 “Or deer, who are simply trying to live in peace, and forage, in the forests will be killed.”There are currently around 125,000 black-tailed deer in B.C. In 2018 hunters killed about 5% of the population and automobiles killed or injured approximated the same number. Hunter numbers are decreasing too. Only about 2,000 (1.6% of population) reproductive-aged female deer are killed, thus there is no population threat from hunting.

“I cannot go for walks. . . because duck hunters pose a danger.”This is incorrect.  You can safely walk. According to National Safety Council statistics, you are 40 times more likely to be injured bicycling or cheerleading. Hunting is only slightly riskier than billiards and it is even safer for non-hunters afield. Your drive to the hiking trail is much more dangerous than hiking during hunting season. Every new hunter in Canada is required to pass a rigorous safety exam and practicum before getting a license. There are fewer than 5 accidental shooting deaths by Canadian hunters annually (sometimes none at all in BC) and even more rarely by duck hunters.

“Why do I have to sacrifice my peaceful outdoor experience. . .”By law, and in fairness, we all must accommodate others in sharing the outdoors much like paddlers and anglers, mountain bikers and horse riders, skiers and snowboarders. Hunting largely happens in the three cold wet months falling between hiking and skiing seasons. Furthermore, about half of all hunting efforts occur on two opening weekends. Thus, avoiding about two week per year eliminates most overlap. Hunting is inherently a quiet activity and in many places the occasional gunshot is a short, instantly passing annoyance.

“My heart and mind will never understand how killing – whether by bow and arrow, or rifle – is “fun.”I get that. Running marathons, veganism, parenthood or hunting are personal preferences not enjoyed by all. And furthermore, understanding is a prerequisite to informed disapproval. As in gender, BLM, and political topics, if you truly want to understand, speak honestly with (not at!) and listen openly to other peoples’ opinions.

“. . . using sadistic tactics to trick wildlife into coming closer to you for a closer shot, is fun.”Getting close in hunting (decoys, calls, baits, stalking) is ethical hunter behaviour for reducing risks of losing or just injuring an animal. A quick, close, death is always sought. Similarly, livestock are never killed at long distances.

“Some of the main arguments to justify hunting is for food. . .”An elk, or a few deer for a family food supply represents exceptionally meaningful and delicious meat cuts. Compared to $30/kg for farmed elk meat, a hunter’s take may represent a $3-5,000 household value and replace one beef calf, or two pigs, or four sheep or 300 chickens that would have been raised in small spaces to be killed for the same meat volume.

“The other excuse for sport hunting is that it contributes to conservation.”  Unlike hikers, bikers, boaters, birdwatchers or photographers, hunters must pay license money into government coffers for the specific privilege of hunting. They volunteer millions more in addition to volunteering time for wildlife. This money helps pay for habitat, staffing, poacher patrols, and education, and cover some farm damages.

“Or that hunting is less cruel than leaving wildlife to die naturally in the wild.” Wildlife deaths are rarely ones humans would choose. All animals eventually die, and a demise from deep snow, starvation, disease, fighting, predators and automobile strikes are slower, and debatably more grueling deaths than by arrow or bullet. Hunters do not deny there is often some pain, yet are comforted it is short-lived. Responsible hunters seek to minimize unnecessary suffering.

“Nonsense. ‘Conservation’ means to protect and to preserve”Here you confuse “conservation” with “preservation”. Conservation is use-oriented, not hands-off preservation. In North America the word “conservation” was first used to describe withholding and “conserving” springtime floodwaters behind dams for dry season irrigation. “Conserves” are sugar-saturated fruit saved for later use. Conserving species is to steward and manage with intention of some wise use later on. There is room for both but they are different.

“And who really cares what think. I am ‘only’ one person.”I care enough about what you think to seek you out and to reply here. The power of well-intentioned individuals with passion should never be discounted, rather, applauded, respected and engaged with, even if their views may not align exactly with our own. Apathy is far the greater enemy to conservation.

“We are extremely lucky to live in British Columbia, one of the most beautiful places in the world.“ Ms. Breder, all B.C. hunters share your sentiment here and they are among the most active in protecting wildlife habitat, supporting reintroductions, and self-policing against excessive or illegal use. We can disagree on a few key points but instead of opting for the divisive or discrediting approaches of the legal profession, please consider cooperating to build conservation bridges and sharing your legal expertise for the broader collective good of all conservationists. We face some common threats.

Hunting can be a deeply meaningful and rewarding activity, sometimes called “fun” as a shorthand descriptor. Hunting’s healthy outdoor experiences garner organic, free-range, antibiotic-free, habitat-friendly, humanely killed meat for use, sharing, and community-building. Hunting builds an ethos of valuing wild places for the sustainable goods they produce for all. Through this commitment, hunters add their voices and dollars to the continued existence and social value of many B.C.’s wild hunting lands. Incidentally, this nicely complements the extensive network of preserved parks and refuges where there is no hunting.

Lee Foote, PhD is a forester, a wildlife consultant and a retired Professor of Conservation Biology. He lives in Burnaby.

SC’s alligator hunting season off to a busy start

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With the 2020 Alligator Hunting Season in full swing, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resource reported a record 7,172 hunters applied for the hunting permit over the summer. (WCIV)
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — With the 2020 Alligator Hunting Season in full swing, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resource reported a record 7,172 hunters applied for the hunting permit over the summer. Only 1,000 permits are given out through a lottery system.

The season started on September 12th and runs until October 10th. Already in the first week, a 12-foot, 500-pound gator was caught at Lake Moultrie.

“Normally, we get a handful of 12-footers and maybe one or two 13-footers, and that’s one of the things we look at to gauge what’s going, because we don’t want to remove the big alligators,” explained Jay Butfiloski, Furbearer and Alligator Program Coordinator for SCDNR.

Alligators must be captured before a hunter can kill the animal and only one gator is allowed per permit. Meanwhile, only alligators four-feet or greater in length may be taken by a hunter and the animal must be tagged immediately with a harvest tag provided by SCDNR.

“It helps to reinforce alligators to be fearful of people. When we started this, we were sending a lot of our contracted agents to deal with nuisance alligator issues because they were getting comfortable with people, and as a lot of alligator hunters can profess right now, it’s really hard to get around one of them,” said Butfiloski.

The main threat to these reptiles today is habitat loss caused by wetland drainage and development. A cause in the increase in human-alligator interactions, with multiple fatal encounters.

“Those tend to happen, a lot of cases, around people’s homes who live in areas that have alligators and sometimes it is just a misidentification. Maybe a dog is by the water that they confuse as prey, but alligator attacks in our state are rare,” stated Butfiloski, “A lot of that can be attributed to increasing population, especially the coastal developments that we’re having. A lot of development where alligators’ habitat happens to be.”

You can learn more about the season and how to apply for a permit for the 2021 season on the SCDNR’s website.

Hunters prepare for opening day of deer season

Hunters prepare for opening day of deer season

White-tailed buck

White-tailed buck

Every great hunter knows that success throughout the season is more likely when not left to luck alone. Making sure to develop a game plan early will pay off in the late-autumn rut.

Opening day for deer season kicks off for bow hunters in 252 Texas counties on Oct. 3 and runs through Nov. 6. Rifle season follows and spans from Nov. 7 through Jan. 3 in the North Zone and Jan. 17 in the South, with a special South Zone late season lasting through Jan. 31.

John Tomecek, Ph.D., is no stranger to this process. As a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service wildlife specialist and an avid hunter and gamesmen himself, Tomecek knows that when hunting, preparation is key.

Ensuring that preparations are complete and everything is ready to go is half the battle, and half the fun, for many hunters looking to head out on opening day.

“Good planning makes all the difference,” Tomecek said. “Planning should occur at the individual, party and property level. Individuals should know their goals and limitations and make a plan for achieving their goals during the season.”

White-tailed doe

White-tailed doe

Making a game plan

The best way to prepare is to scope out land and plots and talk with landowners to begin developing a plan. If they aren’t already, trail cameras should be set, and hunters should review footage— early and often—to pattern movement.

Hunters should also take time to head out to their trails to clear brush and any debris that might have built up to pave the way for a clean shot and ensure easy access in and out of land around their stand or blind. This also includes having the foresight to check blinds for any damage and survey for unwelcome critters like raccoons, mice, bird or insect nests. This helps take care of unwanted surprises and alleviates any burden or time constraints hunters might run into if they push it too close to opening day.

“Nothing dulls the excitement of opening day more than discovering unexpected guests—like yellow jackets or black widow spiders— and having to make a rapid, noisy exit from your blind,” Tomecek said.

While food plots should already be underway, making sure to monitor and maintain them through mowing, spraying, weeding and fertilization is a neverending task. Hunters should also make sure to routinely visit their plots before opening day to check for any signs of deer.

Routine gear inspection

Strategizing is a good start, but at the end of the day it comes down to execution of that plan, which starts with making sure gear and equipment is ready to go.

When it comes to hunting, there is plenty of equipment involved. From blinds to clothing, harvesting tools and rifles or bows, each piece of gear plays an important role in hunting readiness.

“Many hunters pull their gear out of storage right before the season begins, but hunters ought to spend time all year maintaining their gear and practicing their marksmanship,” Tomecek said.

Smaller field-equipment preparations like checking batteries in flashlights and rangefinders are often overlooked steps, but ones that can have a big impact on ease of experience the first morning of your hunt.

While clothing may not initially register as equipment, for deer hunters ensuring that clothing is appropriate for weather and environmental hazards is a must. Folks should also take care to properly clean and treat clothing to eliminate odors. Deer have over 297 million olfactory receptors in their nose, making them incredibly sensitive to surrounding scents.

Ultimately, Tomecek said at a minimum, bows and rifles should be inspected for safety and accuracy. Taking the time to sight in bows and rifles gives hunters plenty of time to find the right setup and adjustments that work for them, to assist in a quick, clean shot.

Plus, it never hurts to get in a little extra target practice. Practice makes perfect, and hunting is definitely no exception.

Hunting is a sport of safety, and safety should go farther than responsible management of weaponry. For those in stands, returning home safely starts with doublechecking access and safety equipment like ladders, climbing sticks, platforms, straps and harnesses for any rust, damage or breakage and replacing anything that raises concern.

A proper, legal harvest

A successful hunt is a safe and legal hunt. Before hitting the blinds on opening day, hunters should brush up on regulations enforced by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, including those relating to licenses and permits, bag limits, tagging and chronic wasting disease.

These regulations are put in place to ensure the long-term management of white-tail deer populations in Texas, and it is critical that hunters are familiar with them.

“Always, check your Outdoor Annual for the areas in which you’re hunting. If you don’t carry the paper version, there’s a mobile application that works great, all available through Texas Parks and Wildlife,” Tomecek said. “Some general regulations apply everywhere. Check for special regulations in the county of harvest and be diligent at your recordkeeping.”

Valid hunting licenses are required of Texas residents to hunt on public or private lands and can be purchased online or through various local retailers, along with tags and other permits.

In the event of a successful harvest under a hunting license, one should be prepared to tag the animal and log the hunt, immediately. The tag from the hunter’s license must be filled out with information pertaining to the type of deer and date of kill prior to field dressing.

As long as evidence of tagging and proof of sex is ensured, deer can be transported.

As a preparation for bythe book field dressing, hunters should ensure that equipment used for field dressing is in good shape and easily accessible prior to opening day, either in the field, back at base or at a hunter’s residence.

Knives and replacement blades should be sharpened and cleaned, and hunters should take time to pack disposable gloves.

When it comes to processing the meat, Tomecek said those looking to butcher their own game should do research ahead of time.

“Online resources make this far easier than it once was,” he said. “Otherwise, there are many quality professional game processors across the state.”

A final consideration for hunters in CWD Containment and Surveillance Zones is following protocol for reporting of Chronic Wasting Disease, a contagious, deadly disease in deer that causes a variety of somatic and neurological symptoms and poses a threat to conservation of deer in Texas.

Deer harvested in these localized zones, must be taken to check stations managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department within 48 hours.

A greater appreciation for nature and the food it gives

Hunting is as much a sport as it is a livelihood for individuals, families and local communities.

“For many, opening day is the return to familiar places, smells and sights,” Tomecek said.

“The air is electric with the promise and excitement of the coming weeks. It can be very busy in communities where hunting is a cornerstone of the local economy, as a kind of nature tourism.”

It’s this very draw to nature that sends thousands of residents and visitors to the field.

“Hunting is not all about harvesting an animal, it’s about interacting with the natural world around you in a very basic way—being a part of the ecosystem,” Tomecek explained.

He cited documented evidence, which promotes that time spent outdoors increases personal health and teaches hunters, young and old, a variety of critical skills.

It also puts food on the table for thousands of Texans each year, while helping manage the white-tailed deer population statewide.

“Careful management, according to science, has produced a situation where, in most areas, we have as many deer as the ecosystem can support,” Tomecek said. “Hunting provides us an opportunity to remove hungry mouths from the landscape to ensure that a smaller population of deer—what the landscape can naturally support— remain healthier, as does their habitat.”

So, harvesting of deer comes with great reward, but also great responsibility. Key to assuming this responsibility as a hunter is being informed and prepared prior to opening day.

“Hunting is a tradition that requires a great deal of learning and time in the field,” Tomecek said. “I would suggest that folks seek out an experienced hunter as a mentor. There’s no shortage of folks glad to help a new hunter. These mentorships serve as a great reminder that even the best hunters didn’t become an expert overnight.”

Visit Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Outdoor Annual page for more information on hunting restrictions and regulations of whitetailed deer in Texas.

Two youths, 11 and 14, killed in separate incidents while hunting in Michigan/“Take ’Em Hunting” challenge looking to create memories


  • Associated Press

    Clay Township — An 11-year-old boy was shot and killed by his stepfather while hunting with his family in southeast Michigan, the second hunting death of a youth since Saturday.

    Police were called out to a hunting accident Sunday night in Clay Township, the Times Herald of Port Huron reported.

    Police said its believed the family was looking for deer in some woods when the boy was “struck by a round discharged by his 40-year-old stepfather.” The boy later died at a hospital.

    The stepfather was arrested. The shooting was being reviewed by the St. Clair County prosecutor’s office. Fox 2 Detroit reported that while police were there, another gunshot went off. Police said the child’s mother had shot herself in the hand as she was trying to unload a gun and it mistakenly went off.

    Clay Township is about 45 miles northeast of Detroit.

    On Saturday, a 14-year-old deer hunter who possibly fell asleep in a farm field was killed when he was run over by a corn harvester in Michigan’s Thumb region, police said.

    Emergency workers were called about 9 a.m. Saturday to the cornfield in a rural area near the Huron County city of Caseville after a farm worker spotted the boy soon after accidentally driving over him, according to the county sheriff’s office.

    The boy from the nearby city of Elkton had been dropped off earlier for deer hunting at the field and might have fallen asleep, the sheriff’s office said. The farm worker wasn’t aware that anyone was in the field.

    The boy’s identity wasn’t immediately released by authorities and an autopsy was expected to be performed in the coming days.

    The deaths came during the Liberty Hunt on Saturday and Sunday, and is designed for veterans and others with disabilities and youths ages 16 and younger.

    The two-day hunt, which comes ahead of the launch of the anterless firearms and bow season, can be used for an antlered or antlerless deer, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which sponsors the hunt.

    The hunt takes place on private or public lands open to firearm deer hunting,

  • ————————————————————————————————————-
“Take ’Em Hunting”

NORFOLK – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is encouraging you to take someone hunting.

Public Information Officer Greg Wagner says the “Take ’Em Hunting” challenge runs through May next year and you have the chance to win some great prizes.

“Look in your family network, look in your friend group, or even better take somebody who doesn’t look or act like you out hunting. There’s so many young people especially that really need to have hunting. You know with the current pandemic it’s easy to look in your bubble especially with your family network and find an individual who has always wanted to go hunting, but never had the option made available by anyone.”

Wagner says last year, over 2,100 mentors participated, bringing nearly 1,580 first-time hunters into the field to hunt.

He says the challenge is about nature and the best thing a hunter can do for conservation is to introduce someone new to hunting.

Province’s ‘baffling’ cormorant cull is ‘going to be a disaster’

Hunt that begins today will allow hunters to kill 15 birds daily; ‘They might as well as be shooting loons and great blue herons … it’s mind boggling, says naturalist

Andrew Philips15 minutes ago

A cormorant and seagull enjoy a quiet moment on Georgian Bay. Andrew Philips/MidlandToday

Hunt that begins today will allow hunters to kill 15 birds daily; ‘They might as well as be shooting loons and great blue herons … it’s mind boggling, says naturalist

While the province says it’s a necessary step, its widespread double-crested cormorant cull that begins today is drawing some pointed criticism.

“It’s going to be a disaster for people with minimal impact on the cormorants,” naturalist David Hawke, an OrilliaMatters columnist, predicted. “It’s akin to shooting ring-billed gulls.”

That Progressive Conservative government’s “fall harvest for double-creasted cormorants introduced to protect local ecosystems” was quietly introduced in late July just prior to a holiday weekend.

Hawke said that while some find cormorants to be a nuisance since they kill vegetation where they nest, they are a native species and actually feed on an invasive fish species: round gobies.

“They might as well as be shooting loons and great blue herons,” he said. “This whole thing is baffling and it’s mind boggling that this is being done as a hunt. Because to me a hunt is for food. You can’t eat them because of their hundred percent fish diet. They’re not edible.”

But Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop said the government announced the hunt that lasts until December 31 and allows hunters to kill 15 birds daily as a means to to combat a growing problem.

“I’ve heard concerns from property owners, hunters and anglers about the kind of damage cormorants have caused in Simcoe North, and across Ontario, who have witnessed firsthand the issues that cormorants have caused,” Dunlop said.

“The fall hunting season was introduced to protect our local ecosystem and will help communities manage the destruction caused by the cormorant populations where they have negatively impacted natural habitat and other water bird species.”

But Bob Codd, who’s a member of the Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists, said there doesn’t seem to be any real science behind the hunt.

“Any scientific literature would suggest that there’s no basis for it,” said Codd, who runs the local group’s website.

“I think Mr. Ford is just doing it to appease what he sees as his base. I guess there’s a small clamour to do something about them, but a provincewide cull in my opinion isn’t the answer. This doesn’t really make any sense. You can’t eat them. Even a jurisdiction like the United States rejected a cull.”

While no one seems to have firm numbers on how many hunters will be participating, the birds’ numbers could be drastically different by next year should participation be high.

“I don’t know how many people are going to participate in it, but the potential is vast,” Codd said. “If everybody who could, did, it would be really devastating.”

The Animal Alliance of Canada said that the bird could be brought to near extinction in just one season since there are an estimated 143,000 adult, breeding cormorants in the province since hunters hold small game permits (about 197,000) can legally kill up to 15 cormorants a day during a hunt that lasts 111 days.

But Lauren Tonelli, resources management specialist with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, doesn’t think member participation will be that high in the hunt except, perhaps, in smaller lake areas where cormorants outnumber other birds and have damaged habitat.

.”I really feel like it’ll mostly be people who have been seen those types of issues for the past decade,” she said, adding they’re not expecting to see each hunter take 15 birds a day so fears of the bird being hunted into near extinction are without merit.

“I mean, you could apply that to anything. If every angler in Ontario went out and took their limit of fish everyday that they could, you probably would have an issue as well. But obviously that doesn’t happen.”

And while there were no big fireworks displays for either Victoria or Canada Day this year due to the pandemic, the sounds of shotgun blasts bursting through the air could take away some of the calm and tranquility Ontario’s lakes normally offer in the fall.

Hawke wonders whether that loss of tranquility and leaving either dead or dying cormorants to rot on islands where they’ve been shot or floating over to nearby shorelines could create hostility and lead to conflicts between hunters and those enjoying area lakes like boaters, campers and cottagers.

“You’re going to see a shoreline of dead birds,” Hawke said, noting he can see a major social disconnect happening between the varying groups. “I can see a huge social clash happening. We now have more cottages, more people than ever before.

“These guys will go out, blast away and knock a bunch of cormorants out of the sky. They can’t take them home because they’re not worth eating. What do you do with the carcass? I think we’re going to see a shoreline of dead cormorant carcasses rotting.”

Hawke said he can’t understand the logic behind the government’s decision to try to decimate the waterbird’s provincial population through a legal hunt since the province once had an extended Canada Goose hunt, but that had seemingly no effect on that species’ population.

“Why don’t they have a concerted effort to oil the (cormorant’s) eggs so they don’t hatch and the population would slowly decrease,” he said, adding that move would be better for everyone and would address concerns related to cormorants such as damaging trees for nesting and roosting, eating a small percentage of so-called ‘sport fish’ and leaving behind guano-topped islands.

As well, some consider the cormorants’ revival in the Great Lakes from historic lows in the 1970s to be a success story with Hawke noting the bird suffered dramatic declinces back then due to exposure to environmental contaminants like DDT.

Tonelli, meanwhile, said her organization has been after the province for two decades to deal with the burgeoning cormorant population.

“We had a lot of members noticing that cormorant populations were increasing and their colonies were getting bigger and they’re causing more damage along the waterfront and smaller islands,” Tonelli said. “Their numbers are increasing throughout Ontario.”

Tonelli said that in 2018 when a similar initiative was being mentioned, her organization wanted the government to take “active management” of the species by having Ministry of Natural Resources and Foresty personnel conduct population control measures through smaller culls and oiling eggs where needed rather than an official hunt.

But she said she understands the reasoning behind the hunt since it will cost the government fewer resources in terms of staff time.

She added: “Obviously allowing a hunt doesn’t really cost them anything and they actually make a little bit of revenue.”