I’ve gotta say, I like having a covert all to myself. No competition, no strangers hunting my birds … admit it, you’ve said the same things. Haven’t you?
So why would a bunch of high-powered industry and government types meet in hot, sticky Florida in June to figure out how to turn more people into shooters and hunters? That was the purpose of the recent Shooting Sports Summit, organized by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. [For details, go here.]
Simply put, the resource. The places you go, and the things you do there.
If I was to boil it all down, distill all the rhetoric, sum up the entire 48-hour discussion, it wasn’t about selling more ammo or camo. It was about ensuring that our kids, and their kids, and their kids’ kids, have wildlife, habitat, and the opportunity to enjoy both.
The PETA folks aren’t paying for it, are they? Picket signs and protests don’t buy wildlife refuges. And the Spandex-sportsters? While they’re mountain biking through your favorite grouse woods enjoying the birds, flowers, trees and trails … and spooking birds … they’re freeloading.
The fact is, we pay. For everyone. For every loudmouthed kayaker pushing ducks away from your blind, and all the little old ladies with $800 binoculars stalking the elusive yellow-throated warbler.
A percentage is taken from the wholesale price of every hunting gear purchase and filters its way from manufacturers to the feds, who dole out most to state wildlife and fish departments for on-the-ground projects. License purchases pay biologists’ salaries. Duck stamps buy and manage federal wildlife refuges. Then, there’s the discretionary dollars. How much do you bid for those Terry Redlin prints? Have you ever added up your RGS dues, time devoted to service projects, raffles and door prize purchases, and contributions of hard cash? Add that to the kitty.
Yep, I’ll say it: nobody puts dollars – and boots – on the ground like sportsmen. Aren’t you proud to say it loudly and often? Or did you even know that’s where the money comes from? But that’s fodder for another post. Suffice it to say, the lifeblood of conservation flows from the veins of those who carry guns and rods, row camo johnboats and fletch arrows, not the pleather-wearing vegetarians handing out leaflets at your child’s school.
That “green gold” flows from sportsmen’s wallets to hiking trails, camping sites, “watchable” wildlife, interpretive kiosks, and endangered species enforcement … as a result, a shrinking number of our dollars go to the critters and the places we love.
And that’s before we factor in the dwindling number of hunters. Every time one of us “retires” from our sport, the pot gets smaller. Buy less ammo and your game and fish department can’t fund that radio telemetry study of sage grouse. Forestall your new gun purchase, and a department head may have to choose between three-toed salamander research and funding a walk-in pheasant hunting program. Or, maybe he’ll build a bike trail instead.
Ironically, if hunters (and anglers) were to fall off the face of the earth, so would virtually all wildlife and their habitat. Everyone wants to dance, but nobody but sportsmen and women pay the piper. Now that’s something PETA should be protesting!
Isn’t it time the kayakers, nature photographers, skiers, bikers, bird watchers and campers chipped in? None of their gear is taxed like hunting and fishing gear is. But they’re enjoying the wildlife and resource just the same … dining and dashing, so to speak, in our woods and prairies, streams and lakes. And (shame on them) their industry has blubbered and whined while steadfastly opposing legislative efforts have them pay their fair share.
Next time one of your neon-clad friends gripes about hunters or hunting, scientific wildlife management strategies or animal rights, suggest he buy a duck stamp. Or hunting license, camo rain gear or box of bullets … ask him to put his money where his big mouth is.
With luck, he’ll actually use them. Only then is he invited to the party.