All of us as hunters need to take a long hard look at a press release that the Wyoming Game and Fish just came out with. Four out of ten vehicles that observed and passed a decoy buck in an area west of the Tetons ended up with citations for attempted poaching. 40% of the people who saw the decoy couldn’t keep their fingers off the trigger after deer season had been closed for 3 days!
As hunters, we can do better than this and we will have to if we want to win the ever present public relations battle that we fight on a daily basis. Our image as hunter-conservationists matters in a world that is bombarded with social media telling them how to think, behave, and vote. People who don’t hunt really could care less about the size of the antlers on the animal we harvested but they do care about the ethics that we employed harvesting our trophies. They want to know that we took care of the meat and did everything possible to recover what we are legally required to.
The curious thing is that the “locavore” movement is growing, with more people who want to know exactly where their food came from. This really isn’t a new thing to those of us who have hunted for generations and grown gardens in our backyards. We want the non-hunting public as allies in the future and four out of 10 people attempting to poach a buck after the season closes won’t likely keep them on our side.
We can’t have 40% of hunters giving the rest of us black eyes in the fights that are looming over head. This month we have had more people who would normally resist delisting of any animal, say that the time has come to delist the Yellowstone grizzly bear population. For those of us who live in grizz territory it is time. For the sake of the bear, it is time. They continue to expand their range and when push comes to shove, bears on agricultural property are not usually the ones who walk away. They typically end up tagged, relocated, and when they have had more than one incident they are destroyed. This is a no win situation for anyone involved.
Hunting seasons won’t fix every conflict that we have with grizzly bears, but it certainly won’t hurt either. When poaching incidents like this happen we look like blood-thirsty animals who believe we are above the law and must kill every animal we come in contact with. You and I know that to protect our hunting heritage and see it continue to grow these poaching incidents have to be stopped. With the bulk of the voting public consisting of non-hunters, we must do better to help the general public have a more favorable opinion of hunters and hunting seasons and 40% of hunters shooting at a deer out of season isn’t going to accomplish this.
Good luck the rest of you who still have tags in your pockets!