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The Connection Between Hunters and Wildlife Conservation in the US

In many parts of the world, uncontrolled hunting has led to the extinction of wildlife species or at least a great reduction in their population and range. For the most part, this issue has been avoided in the US and in many instances, there are more wild animals alive now than there were a couple of centuries ago. A person might wonder what the connection is between hunters and wildlife conservation in the US and why the wildlife species have been successful here when they haven’t been in other places.

It first needs to be pointed out that not all animal species have been successful in the US. That includes big game. American bison were nearly wiped out and the worst part of it was that this was done on purpose, in an effort to try to control the Native Americans.

However, many animal species have been saved and flourish in greater numbers in the US now, than at the time the US was settled in the 1700s and 1800s. How was this done?

This was primarily due to the efforts of hunters. It might at first seem like this would be a contradiction, but it really isn’t. There is an unrealistic notion that hunters are just a bunch of blood-thirsty people who wander willy-nilly through the woods killing any animal they come across. This is not only absurd, but it is also false.

The truth is that the first conservationists in the US were hunters. They were also usually the first to identify problems that wildlife was having and they actively took steps to protect the wildlife. Many did so and do so because of their love of wildlife in general, but many also do it because it is in their best interest.

For example, if deer hunters allow the deer population to drop tremendously, they won’t be able to harvest many deer. It would make sense to ensure that the deer population was healthy, vibrant, and stable, so they will have deer to hunt.

To do this, many hunters formed associations with other hunters. Through their efforts, laws were put into place in regard to what could be hunted, when it could be hunted, and how many could be taken in a given area. Notice that in the first sentence, the operative phrase used was “uncontrolled hunting”. Early on, hunting groups made sure that the hunting wasn’t ‘uncontrolled’.

These groups were also responsible for coming up with the resources and manpower to correct problems that can occur when people settle an area. 

To explain how such a thing works, in the 1970s, a problem was identified in eastern Oregon. The area is forested, but it is also part of the Oregon high desert. Every year, deer and other wildlife were dying of thirst because ranchers, farmers, and landowners were forcing the wildlife away from natural watering holes, which were already scarce.

One rancher reached out to various non-hunting organizations for help with the problem. He was ignored. During one drought year, hundreds of deer, pronghorns, squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, cougars, birds, and other wildlife perished. The man turned to a hunting organization for help.

He got the help and the solution was simple. On land that the man owned, a series of catch basins were created to hold water. This was done with the use of bulldozers and people with shovels. This was labor-intensive and it cost a lot of money. The money and labor came from the hunting organization and their efforts. 

It was successful and in a subsequent drought, very few animals died of thirst. Nature supplied the water, but it would have done no good without the efforts of the hunting group. Life now flourishes in that area.

  • Question of

    Did you or do you think of hunters as people who simply want to kill animals for no reason?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I used to
  • Question of

    Where you aware that hunters in the US do so much to protect wildlife?

    • Yes
    • No
    • It makes no difference if it saves animals from suffering or becoming extinct, hunting shouldn’t be allowed
    • I’m not only aware of the conservation efforts of US hunters, I’ve participated in the efforts

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Written by Rex Trulove

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    • That would require a book, especially if each law was explained. Counting the laws in each state, there are several thousand hunting laws. These cover such things as which species can be hunted, what time of day they can be hunted, what time of year they can be hunted, how many of each species can be taken per person, what locations are open for hunting or closed for hunting, how far from dwellings or towns you have to be in order to hunt, which genders of a given species can be taken, who can lawfully hunt, what the minimum caliber of rifle can be used for hunting a given species, when the season is for bow hunting, black powder hunting, and so forth. In many states, it is also illegal to hunt big game with a shotgun or handgun.

      The 2019 hunting regulations manual for Montana alone is about 40-60 pages and it doesn’t cover all hunting laws. It also doesn’t cover Federal hunting laws and laws in regard to the use of firearms, bows, or black powder rifles. In fact, it also only covers hunting of animals that are considered game animals and doesn’t cover hunting of non-game species.

      Each state has its own laws, aimed specifically for the types of animals that are found in that state.

      The common-sense laws were pushed through by hunters and hunting organizations. Many more laws, including some that don’t make much sense, were added along the way by bureaucrats, some of whom never went hunting and don’t know much about animals.

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