Oregon’s deer and elk seasons are winding down, and nearly 200,000 Oregonians hit the woods. Men, women, young, and old are looking to bring home an animal to feed their friends and family and possibly preserve the memory by having the animal mounted for their wall.
Despite campaigns by large well-funded animal rights groups that oppose hunting, nearly 80% of Americans support legal and regulated hunting.
Hunting has been something humans have taken part in since the dawn of man, but just because we’ve always done something, does that make it right? No, but in this case, regulated hunting of today is possibly more sustainable than another time in documented history.
To shed more light on this, I recently chatted with Steven Rinella. Rinella is an award-winning author, podcaster, and host of Meat Eater, a hit TV show. He is an advocate for hunting, wildlife, wild places and showcases the health, conservation, and the economic value of hunting to the general public.
“Today’s hunting can’t be compared to market hunting that previously existed. A lot of people have this idea that when Europeans arrived here in the New World that it was like this Eden, and it was, it was this Eden and that it’s gradually gone down from there. What people don’t realize is that in the late 1800s and early 1900s, wildlife in America was decimated. There wasn’t even really any hunting anymore. It was just destroyed,” Rinella says.
The data supports Rinella’s statement. It’s estimated that America had fewer than 100,000 wild turkeys and few than 350,000 whitetail deer in 1900.
As a result, hunters and anglers helped create ground breaking change though The North American Wildlife Conservation Model. Its premise is simple, wildlife belongs to all Americans, wildlife should only be killed for a legitimate purpose, and wildlife should be managed to ensure sustainable populations for future generations. It also eliminated commercial market hunting and declared that sound scientific wildlife management was essential.
Rinella says that since that time hunters and anglers have been the tip of the spear for conservation issues.
“The strongest advocacy and often times the most money and on the ground work on behalf of wildlife around the country has been from hunters and fishermen,” he says. He continues, “if we don’t have advocates with a vested interest in wildlife, we will have a gradual diminishment of wildlife, wildlife habitat, and wild places.”
Hunters and anglers indeed have a vested interested in ensuring the perpetuation of wildlife. That’s why in 1937, sportsmen successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, which put an excise tax on the sale of all sporting arms and ammunition. This was followed in 1950 by the Dingell-Johnson Act, which placed a similar tax on fishing equipment. Combined these self-imposed taxes generate upwards of a billion dollars annually that help fund conservation of all wildlife, not just those hunted or fished.
Additionally, the self-imposed taxes and state license revenues generated by hunters and anglers have led to states purchasing and managing 15.4 million acres of habitat.
Rinella says that hunting and hunters must remain part of the equation if wildlife, wildlife habitat, and wild places are going to continue to thrive.
“If you look at where we’ve been as a country and where we’re going, there’s a very compelling argument to be made in favor of hunter based conservation. It’s not even a debatable point, it’s the best system that exists in the world today,” he says.