I hope you had a fantastic hunting season – good times with friends and family, beautiful places and good dog work. I enjoyed meeting many of you along the way and hope we can connect again this season. Bear with me on this one, because it has become increasingly important to me – and I hope for you.
Our sport is threatened. Not just from politicians, anti-hunters, radical vegans or Thursday night football. Habitat, and the dollars to manage it, are dwindling. The number of hunters is shrinking. But the first problem can in large part be addressed by solving the second one. Simply put, more hunters equals more habitat and game management.
If you know how this works, thanks for bearing with me, maybe passing this on to someone who doesn’t. And stick with me, because I have a favor to ask. If you don’t yet know about excise taxes, please take a minute and read on – you’ve got an assignment too.
Even though every citizen benefits (bird watchers, hikers, mountain bikers, photographers), your state game and fish department is largely funded by sportsmen and women. License fees, tags, stamps and permits, plus a giant pot of money the federal government doles out. That pot is filled by us every time we buy ammo, shotguns and other hunting gear. The federal Pittman-Robertson Act is a hidden excise tax on those purchases. There is a fishing equivalent (Dingell-Johnson) and sportsmen actually approached Congress back in the thirties and asked for these taxes to ensure game and fish had a place to thrive.
The feds, in turn, hand that money over to the states based on the number of hunting license holders they have. In most states, P-R and D-J funds make up 75 percent of the department’s budget.
You probably know where I’m going but let me be clear: to help wildlife in general and the birds we love to chase with our dogs, we need to do two things.
First, buy stuff. Second, and more critical, is involving someone new in our sport. I support and encourage all the efforts to attract kids, women, urban residents, etc., but there is one more – and in my view better – potential hunter that until now has been virtually ignored at the national level: our friends.People like us.
Everyone has a friend with a bit of money, understands food comes from animals, has free time because his kids are grown. We might know someone looking for a new hobby or retirement activity, is just a generation or two removed from rural life, or is interested in the “wild food” ethos.
The ultimate recruiting tool. Use it!
They’ve listened to our stories, asked a few questions, maybe eaten one of your wild game dinners. It’s a gentle nudge to get them on a hunt, especially compared to dragging a teenager out of bed before sunrise to a cell phone dead zone and forcing her to wear blaze orange … not to mention the “eeeew” factor.
The odds are way better with friends. Need motivation? Who couldn’t use more mature camaraderie, more beautiful places, more non-stop action? And then there’s our biggest advantage, the magic our dogs work in the field.
You know the secret language … a primordial connection between predators working toward a common goal. It’s an unspoken, indescribable bond between man and dog. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?
Make a convert, fund habitat and conservation. He or she might become your best hunting buddy – besides your dog, of course.
I’ve made it my new year’s resolution. Will you?