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I Was Hoping to Hear This….

My previous article titled Are Hunters Undermining Wildlife Conservation in the East Kootenay struck a chord with a lot of readers. I was overwhelmed with the number of individuals who privately contacted me and expressed their frustration over the people who are trying to manipulate hunting regulations and playing politics for personal gain. Many hunters are quiet humble people who prefer not to be in the spotlight or get involved in conflict. But so many of them told me they are angry and ready to do something about the individuals who act as if their opinions represent those of all hunters.  It was reassuring to hear that there are many hunters out there who are supportive of true science-based wildlife management and who want the opinionated folks to ratchet it down in favour of more constructive round table dialogue.

I Was Not Expecting To Also Hear This Though…

I was taken back, however, by the number of people that wrote me and said that they were losing hope about the future of wildlife and hunting. Some hunters tell me they feel so bombarded with the issues and problems facing hunting and wildlife and with all the conflict between hunters that they feel like quitting hunting. “I feel like I’m being told to throw in the towel” as one hunter put it.  Another hunter said he feels he may never get the opportunity to teach his young son about hunting and share the passions he has for the outdoors. Another reader told me he feels demoralized because older men in his own family are down on him for working so hard at hunting. They tell him he’s wasting his time because there is no wildlife left. Other people expressed feelings of being lost because there are so many issues facing hunting and wildlife that they do not know how to help.

Are We Really Living in the Empire Strikes Back Episode?

Over the last few years, the more I became involved in wildlife conservation, politics and standing up for wildlife and hunting, the more of the world’s problems seem to weigh me down. I was losing the ability to be happy when I was out hunting because wildlife and hunting problems plagued my every thought. I could never clear my mind and simply enjoy being present in the nature.  The more I tried to get involved, the more my health and personal relationships were suffering. I was growing more and more frustrated that the important big picture conservation issues were always overshadowed by hunters attacking one another or from their being “stuck in the weeds.”  Every time we seemed to make a bit of progress on building public trust, a sensationalized media campaign erupted over some stupid thing that a hunter posted on social media. I see subcultures of hunters who do nothing but hate. There also seems to be some folks in the hunting community set on destroying the people who are working the hardest to protect hunting and wildlife including hunting spokespeople, biologists, scientists and wildlife managers. I understand why many hunters feel their sense of hopelessness. It’s why I took a step back and revaluated where and how I wanted to be involved in wildlife conservation and the future of hunting.

It is a challenging time right now for wildlife and hunting in British Columbia. There are a lot of problems and threats. But it is not a time that warrants apathy, quitting or feeling that there is no hope for a better future. There is a tremendous amount to be thankful for in British Columbia. BC is the best jurisdiction in all of North America when it comes to hunting. For those of us that live here, our province and hunting way of life is worth fighting for. There is hope and hope lies within each of us. It just needs to find a way to get out. This is why I focus on trying to reach you with ideas through my writing.

Pessimistic, Optimistic or Realistic  – Which Attitude Should Hunters Adopt for 2018?

I challenge all hunters to take some time in the New Year and reflect on what hunting means to you. Spend some time soul searching and really try to define the essence of hunting that is the most important for you.  Understanding what’s important to you is the first step towards realizing there is hope. I also challenge you to take the weight of the world off your shoulders. Stop worrying about the world’s hunting problems. You can’t fix them all and no one is expecting you to. There are some really smart and passionate people working on wildlife and hunting problems. What they need more than anything is your support in trying to get elected officials to focus on big picture conservation issues.

In 2018, you have a choice in what type of attitude you can adopt towards the future of hunting and wildlife conservation. Inspirational writer William A Ward once said,

“The pessimist complains about the wind,

The optimist expects the wind to change and,

The realist adjusts the sail.”

Should hunters be optimists, pessimists or realists?

Pessimists are always shitting on everyone and everything. They often are the ones who make up the hater subcultures that exist within the hunting community. They do nothing to advance wildlife conservation or protect the future of hunting. In many cases they are the ones hurting us the most. In hunting, many of the pessimists are what a few of us jokingly call them GOWGs – Grumpy Old White Guys.  Distancing yourself from the pessimists and haters can make a huge difference in encouraging your positive attitude in 2018.

Across the province, many of the people involved in wildlife conservation hear the old hunters complaining that younger hunters are not stepping up to become advocates for hunting and conservation. The GOWGs criticize and dump on the younger generations for their apathy and self-centered attitudes. Young people across the province tell us they want to be involved but they do not want to be around the GOWGs. Many younger hunters desperately want to help wildlife and promote a better image of hunting but they do not want to sit around with a generation of angry entitled hunters who are just mad at the world.  Younger hunters have different values and they have more efficient ways of communicating with one another and organizing themselves using social media. Maybe 2018 needs to be the year that our oldest generations retire from the hunting-wildlife battles and support the younger generations to start talking about their vision for the future of hunting and what’s important to them.

Optimists can bring everyone’s spirits and confidence up because they always see the positive side of issues and they are thankful for what they have. Optimism can be infectious and inspiring. Optimists are often the cheerleaders in the crowd. But they can also be the ones that see the world through rose-coloured glasses and who don’t engage in tough discussions about the changes needed in wildlife management and hunting because of the belief that “it will all be ok.”

Realists see the big picture and they are the ones who think about the tactics that hunters need to employ in order to function and survive in a changing world. If realists are also empowering-type leaders, they can be the ones who unite and drive change by creating a movement. Realists, however, run the danger of only focusing on immediate challenges and always talking about the sky that is falling.

It’s clear that pessimism is hurting the future of hunting and wildlife. Pessimists need to fade out of the picture. We need more optimists and realists working together with a shared vision for the future.  Possibly the best attitude you can adopt is to become an optimistic realist. An optimistic realist would identify the issues, study them objectively and set a course of action to solve problems while inspiring other hunters by giving them hope.

12 Ways Hunters Can Make a Positive Change in 2018

I’ve put together 12 inspirational life mantras that I’ve borrowed from other inspirational thinkers and adapted them so they have meaning to hunters. These mantras and life lessons, once adopted, have the ability to change the direction of hunting and wildlife conservation. If you are ambitious, work on one mantra each month in 2018. If that seems like too much, simply pick two and make them your goals for the New Year. Every bit of progress is a positive contribution. As Mahatma Gandhi said – “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

1) Pursue what makes you happy

You have the right to be happy and to pursue hunting in the way that brings you pleasure. You do not need to conform or meet other’s expectations. Simply hunt to be happy within yourself. Find the deeper personal meanings of hunting that bring you pleasure and seek them out as much as you can. Being passionate about wildlife and hunting means you care about some aspect of nature. People who care will act to protect what they love.  You need to free yourself and not feel guilty for pursuing happiness in your hunting. Being happy can be considered the first step to changing the future of hunting. Celebrate hunting and be happy with what you have.

2) Respect others

Without respect for one another there can be no good outcomes for wildlife conservation or hunting. Treat every fellow hunter, non-hunter, anti-hunter, wildlife biologist, scientist or elected official like you would your grandmother. In 2018, don’t you think it’s time that hunting and wildlife conservation could do with a little less hate?

3) Embrace learning

The death of hunting and conservation will be ignorance. More than ever, you need to be well-informed and understand the complexities of the problems facing wildlife and hunting.  Reading, learning and developing a voracious passion for knowledge about wildlife, conservation and hunting will empower you. Well-rounded, well-informed, balanced critical thinking and articulate hunters are the future of hunting and conservation. Diving into the scientific literature can be daunting though. I recommend getting onto Twitter and start following many of the brilliant young wildlife scientists and biologists that are out there working on the leading edges of wildlife management. Most of them simplify what their science is telling us and they are all super cool with answering questions. In 2018, seek to understand rather than being understood.

4) Check your opinions

In the words of comedian Tim Minchin, “Opinions are like assholes; everyone has one.  Unlike your asshole, your opinions need to be regularly examined.” If a few more folks did some regular examinations in 2018, we might all be better off.

5) Teach others

Take some aspect of your passion for hunting, wildlife or love of the outdoors and share that with others. Teach people what you know and show them why you care so much. The best gains for wildlife and the future of hunting can be achieved by giving others the gift of knowledge and a reason to care about wildlife.  Teach someone how to hunt and process their own wild food.

6) Contribute to conservation

Not everyone has time to dedicate hours per week as a volunteer in a hunting conservation organization. Don’t worry. You don’t have to. Research and find an organization whose ideologies, messages and efforts speak to you and just join. Something as simple as just having a membership makes a huge difference since the size of memberships often is what puts power behind an organization’s voice. For Canadian hunters, try to put your support behind an organization that’s dedicated to wildlife conservation and protecting hunting in Canada or your province. If joining an organization is not your thing, consider picking a cause and making a donation to wildlife once per year.  You can never go wrong with contributing financially to a habitat project.

7) Support others

In British Columbia, there are approximately 115,000 resident hunters, yet there are only a handful of individuals who are working day in and day out advocating for wildlife conservation, hunters’ values and our hunting heritage. Often these spokespeople put themselves in the spotlight and they get ridiculed in media interviews and at public meetings. Far too often these leaders are also the target of hunter’s criticism and hate. Some leaders and spokespeople even receive death threats from within our own hunting community. Other leaders have been the victims of local hunters who have tried to destroy their families and careers.  In 2018, take the opportunity to encourage these leaders, show them your gratitude and tell them you support them in what they are trying to do.

8) Be “pro” something

Stand for something positive. Be “pro” something rather than “anti” something. Distance yourself from haters and the hater subcultures. If you use social media or log into hunting chat sites that are filled with complainers and haters, do yourself a favour and unfollow them. Find like-minded people who stand for something positive and have constructive ideas.

9) Don’t show off

If there has been one thing in 2017 that has once again plagued the reputation of hunter conservationists, it has been the hunters that feel entitled to show off on social media. Ego and egregious behavior continues to hurt hunting and our conservation efforts in the public forum thanks to a few hunters who don’t have the foresight to anticipate social reactions to their online content. I believe it was Canadian Conservationist Shane Mahoney who called the move to put hunting onto television and into mainstream media as a grand social experiment that went dreadfully wrong. Fortunately, I see many good folks ratcheting down their personal social media and self-promotions out of respect for the institution of hunting and their fellow hunter.

10) Search for win-win solutions

Non-hunters are focused on wanting to talk about what hunting ought to be, and hunters are focused on defending what hunting is. Non-hunters want to see moral progress in hunting, and hunters are stuck in the past and on maintaining old traditions. Hunters are battling against hunters. Resident hunters are angry at Guide-Outfitters. Rifle hunters are angry at bow hunters and so on and so on. Each side in all these debates is entrenched in fighting for the win-lose outcome. When each side compromises on their values, ideologies and wants in order to find win-win solutions, everyone, especially wildlife, wins. In 2018, become a hunter who advocates for win-win solutions and accepts a bit of give and take.

11) Stand for truth

In this post truth era, we are constantly reminded of how people can take their opinions or made up facts and convince others that these opinions are “true.”  Educating yourself will arm you with facts and evidence which, in turn, will allow you to become a person that stands for the truth. A person who stands for truth is more influential. In 2018, stand for truth. Demand that people speak the truth and demand that they support their claims with verifiable evidence and facts. Wildlife deserves a conservation framework based on truth and so do hunters.

12) No entitlement

Life Coach and Mentor Dick Rauscher says, “Our self-focused feelings of entitlement encourage us towards anger and the blaming of others when we don’t get what we feel we are entitled to in life… simply because we want it. But the primary danger that comes with our self-focused sense of entitlement… is the fact that it tends to create walls of envy between us and others.”

In 2018, learn to recognize entitlement and when you see it, call out those who suffer from it.

 

Two bonus mantras / life lessons:

13) Celebrate more

To the hunting conservation leaders in Canada working on our behalf, please make 2018 the year you balance problems facing hunting and wildlife with successes and celebrations of wildlife, hunters and the hunt. Giving people a reason to care is also about being an optimistic realistic leader. When hunters are bombarded with issues and problems on a daily basis, we all get overwhelmed and that can lead to that sense of hopelessness. A sense of hopelessness can lead to giving up and that leads to a lose-lose outcome for wildlife and the future of hunting.

14) Recognize contributions

To all elected officials representing the people, make 2018 the year that you recognize the knowledge, skills and contributions that rural people make to conservation. Become the leaders that break down these damaging urban vs. rural and hunter vs. non-hunter strifes that plague wildlife conservation in British Columbia.

To my fellow Hunter Conservationists, here’s to hope in the New Year and the role we all play in changing the future.

Yours in Hunting and Conservation,

Mark LR Hall

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