12 Ways Hunters Can Make a Positive Change in 2018

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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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Are Hunters Undermining Wildlife Conservation in the East Kootenay?

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The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is recognized as the most successful wildlife management framework in the world. The Model has 7 principles (tenets) which every hunter conservationist should be able to recite and effectively use in any argument regarding sustainable hunting and wildlife management. Watch Steven Rinella, host of the MeatEater show, explain the Model in this short video.

The 7 principles of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation:

#1 – Wildlife is Held in the Public Trust

#2 – Prohibition on Commercial Markets for Wildlife

#3 – Hunting Opportunity for All

#4 – Wildlife Can Only be Killed for Legitimate Purposes

#5 – Wildlife are International Resources

#6 – Science is the Proper Tool to Discharge Wildlife Policy

#7 – Democrat Rule of Law

The purpose of principle number 6 means that science is the proper tool for discharge of wildlife policy.

“The North American Model recognizes science as a basis for informed management and decision-making processes. This tenet draws from the writings of Aldo Leopold, who in the 1930s called for a wildlife conservation movement facilitated by trained wildlife biologists that made decisions based on facts, professional experience, and commitment to shared underlying principles, rather than strictly interests of hunting, stocking, or culling of predators. Science in wildlife policy includes studies of population dynamics, behavior, habitat, adaptive management, and national surveys of hunting and fishing.”

This description means science must be used to understand wildlife and humans. Hunters cannot support one and not the other and expect sustainable wildlife populations and the continuation of their hunting heritage.  However, in British Columbia where I live and in particular the East Kootenay region of the southeastern part of the province I am witnessing attempts to undermine the North American Model by some of my fellow hunters.

A Disappearing Resource

Wildlife in British Columbia are disappearing from the landscape. Not because of hunting but because this province has been failing to adequately invest in wildlife management and habitat protection for nearly 40 years now. Ultimately, we are witness to the failure of principle #1 of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. We the people on BC entrusted our wildlife with the government and they are failing us. Hunters know the land well and they are witness to the impacts of cumulative environmental effects at a scale and pace never seen before in their lifetimes. There is shear and utter panic within the hunting community because they know that as wildlife disappear so does the hunters way of life. But rather than rally around the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation and unite behind a common goal of putting more wildlife back on the land, improving investment in wildlife conservation and embracing science many hunters are simply trying to impose their view of the world on everyone else including the policy makers. So many hunters have fallen into the trap “I’m right and you’re an idiot” and the way to realize this is to have a dialogue so that the most opinionated folks can open the minds of others with an ice pick. To stay true to the North American Model there is no place for personal opinions or agendas to drive the management of wildlife that belong to the people.

The Importance of Science in Hunting and Wildlife Management

Science is a process where observations of real world phenomena lead to the formulation of research questions. Objective research studies are designed to answer these questions without biasing the conclusions.  A key part of the scientific method is that each research study is designed so that scientists have the best chance to clearly identify what is causing what. They do this by ensuring they can look objectively at a number of possible variables that might explain what is going on. For example, scientists might want to understand what is causing high mortality of deer fawns. Their research could look at a number of factors like malnutrition, overcrowding, competition, predation, disease, winter severity, car collisions and so on and so. The research study, which can be broken into a number of individual studies, might then lead to finding out, by some order of magnitude, what things are causing deer fawns to die. Once scientists present the evidence that explains what is going on wildlife managers have facts to base management decisions on. Facts and evidence decrease the uncertainty in making specific management decisions which in turn increases the probability that wildlife management goals can be achieved. A well designed study can be replicated which means that the study can be repeated to see if the original findings can be confirmed. If the repeat study does not support the findings of the first study scientists then dig deeper and start to ask more questions. These questions lead scientists back to the drawing board where they have a better chance of finding out the truth if they adjust and re-run the study. Once a scientific study is completed and submitted for publication other scientists scrutinize the research and its findings. Peer reviews adds integrity to the scientific method by giving managers and policy makers greater certainty when they implement scientist’s recommendations.

The Door Flings Open and In Walks….Mr. Big Hunter

Here is when the modern opinionated hunter enters. Rather than taking what he observes while out hunting and posing questions that would lead us all down a path of identifying facts and evidence many of these vocal know-it-alls toss the virtue of being humble out the window and step onto the soap box and proclaim emphatically – “Now listen to me. This is what’s going on. I’m right and you’re an idiot” like some type of hunting evangelist whose word shall not be questioned. Far too many hunters these days believe what they experience while out hunting and what they think is really going on is the absolute truth. I even see hunters have exact numbers, percentages and statistics for what they claim they know is true. “Deer numbers are down by 70% from last year”, “I fed 2000 elk hay all last winter and those elk had a higher survival rate than those that were not fed”, or “99% of hunters agree that hunting antlerless deer has decimated the population”. In this post truth era Mr. Trump might be interested in some of these “facts” because the more one espouses them the greater chance everyone will eventually accept them as truths.

In Idaho a few years ago there was an elk herd whose calf recruitment was down to less than 9 calves per 100 cows. It’s a rule of thumb in wildlife biology that if you let calf recruitment drop below about 14 calves per 100 cows the herd is doomed. At that level, typically no amount of management can bring the elk population back up. It’s called the death spiral in population dynamics. Idaho hunters cried wolf. They demanded the state undertake a wolf cull. The local hunters figured they knew more about what was going on than anyone else; therefore, there was no reason to study the problem. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided the state with funds for a 2 year predator study. The study proved that, in that particular elk herd, cougar predation was causing the high calf mortality not wolves. Using the evidence, the state worked with local hound hunters and made the cougar season more liberal. Within a few years the elk herd rebounded as calf survival increased. The moral of the story is that if the opinions of hunters would have been the sole basis for wildlife management that elk herd in Idaho would have been extirpated. There is no doubting that hunters play an important role in raising red flags in wildlife management but in the name of conservation hunters must support the science that will help us all find the truth or at least get closer to it. If hunters simply reject science and battle the process just to get a “win” then those hunters need to accept the consequences when they are wrong. If other hunters don’t stand up to the loud know-it-alls they have to accept responsibility as well if a populist decision fails to benefit wildlife.  The main question I pose to hunters is; do you want to be right more than you want healthy wildlife populations?

The Tale of Two Fields of Study

What many hunter folks are missing in their understanding of science in wildlife management is that principle # 6 of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation includes formal surveys of hunting and hunters.

Science in wildlife policy includes studies of population dynamics, behavior, habitat, adaptive management, and national surveys of hunting and fishing.

Human dimensions science needs to be a tool used by modern wildlife managers to understand what hunters are seeing in the woods, what red flags they are raising, what they support and what types of things are important to their hunting experience. This is the human dimension side of wildlife management and it is a field of wildlife science that is critical to the sustainable management of wildlife everywhere in the world including North America.

Recently in British Columbia, a human dimensions hunter survey was completed on mule deer hunters who had hunted in the Region 3 wildlife management unit. Before the survey some of the noisy local hunters were saying that mule deer management was a disaster. The survey actually showed the majority of hunters were generally satisfied with mule deer hunting in the region, the regulations, the management approach and the numbers of deer they saw while hunting. Contrary to what the know-it-alls were saying lots of hunters in the survey support an antlerless mule deer season and said they would like a few more antlerless tags allocated if the population could support it. Most hunters felt there was too much road access and road hunting in key mule deer habitats. The interesting thing about this study was the things that a few loud opinionated local hunters were saying was not what the vast majority of hunters across the province said. That’s the value of using science in understanding what all hunters have to say rather than the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” approach.

A scientific approach to understanding what hunters have to say is what a good human dimension hunter survey will give us. The Region 3 hunter survey showed there was very good alignment between scientific principles in mule deer ecology and what the majority of hunters in the survey said. Human dimension and wildlife science must be combined to create sustainable wildlife management policy if wildlife conservation is going to progress in this province. Sustainable wildlife management requires adequate funding, lots of science and overwhelming social support. Funding pays for wildlife science and hunter surveys. When hunters are surveyed in an unbiased manner the survey results show us what the majority of folks really think and there is more overall support for the outcomes of the process. All too often in public meetings a few aggressive opinionated people tend to force others into groupthink. Some hunting conservation clubs are afflicted with this type of culture too.

“Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.”

I Got a Bad Feeling About This

In the East Kootenay region in British Columbia where I live, hunters have become obsessed with a single aspect of wildlife management in the region. The East Kootenay region has more big game animals than any other region of British Columbia. There is some kind of hunting opportunity every single month of the year. However, we are not without our wildlife problems. Despite repeated changes to hunting regulations mule deer populations continue to decline and have never rebounded from the severe winter of 1996/97. There is no formal management plan to recover mule deer populations even though they continue to decline. Some valleys no longer support the large elk herds that they used to. More and more deer are taking up residence in urban areas and no one knows exactly why. Chronic wasting disease has been detected in deer just to the east of us in Alberta and now 5 confirmed cases were found in Montana to the south. Our government monitors for CWD but has no plan for when it does show up here. Vigilantes are taking it upon themselves to feed elk contrary to provincial policy as well as poison predators. The region’s Shiras moose populations are declining and many of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep herds have declined to the point where they are below the thresholds that our wildlife policy says can sustain hunting.  There are no formal management plans to recover moose or wild sheep herds either. Fire is rarely used to improve large areas of valuable wildlife habitat and we salvage log wildfires rather than leave the habitat as Nature intended for wildlife.

The East Kootenay Region of British Columbia

Very little is invested back into wildlife management in BC or the East Kootenay region. For example, BC invests $36 per km2 of land into wildlife management. Idaho invests $488, Oregon invests $863, Montana $186, Utah $386, Washington $832 and Alberta $56. BC has 18 species of big game animals. The most these other jurisdictions have are 10 to 11 big game animals. Our government is failing its duty to hold wildlife in the public’s trust.

Local hunters are mad and screaming for change in wildlife management in the East Kootenay. Are they mad about the potential loss of one of North America’s only general open seasons on full curl Bighorn Sheep? Or are they mad the province has no recovery plan for mule deer populations? Or are they upset that our government invests less than every other jurisdiction in western North America into wildlife management? Well a few of us are upset about these things and we are trying to change them. But many of my fellow local hunters are most mad that the region allows hunters the opportunity to harvest one antlerless white-tailed deer for sustenance.

White tailed deer are the most abundant, resilient and prolific ungulate on the North American continent. White-tailed deer inhabit almost every ecosystem in North America including semi-desert and the northern boreal forests. Contrary to many other wildlife species, white-tailed deer have thrived and expanded as result of human development. They are the easiest species to manage for hunter opportunity. White-tailed deer are one of North America’s wildlife species that is considered over populated in many areas of the continent. Many hunters and biologists do not want white-tailed deer expanding their range into the western ranges of mule deer or into the boreal forests where endangered caribou are struggling to survive. White-tailed deer are source of a brain parasite killing moose in the eastern part of North America. White-tailed deer recover the quickest of all ungulates after a severe winter because of their prolific ability to twin and use almost any habitat type. White-tailed deer might feed more families than any other big game animal and revenue from deer hunting in North America surpasses the revenue of many countries. Many white-tailed management programs in North America work on harvesting 2 antlerless deer for every buck harvested in order to maintain social and ecologically balanced populations.

White-tailed deer harvest data from the East Kootenay region shows that neither the buck nor the antlerless seasons are negatively affecting the population. A new 2016/17 study showed that white-tailed deer are the most abundant animal showing up at camera traps sites across the region and that deer prefer to stay away from roads and human trails. Science shows us that if you want to recover mule deer populations managers need to improve mule deer habitat, reduce cougar populations and/or reduce white-tailed deer competition. You can’t maximize white-tailed and mule deer densities on the same piece of ground. But many local hunters are raising concerns that they feel the white-tailed deer population has been decimated by antlerless hunting. White-tailed buck harvests are indexed to the population and harvest data in the East Kootenay shows no major downward trend in the deer population. But something is amiss. Hunters say deer numbers are way down. Some hunters disagree with the harvest data and are adamant that the antlerless deer harvest season is decimating the white-tailed deer population. What’s really going on?

The Pending Drama

Rather than embrace the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and advocate that we need do more work to better assess the deer harvest, some loud opinionated folks are cranking up the band wagon. A few radical hunters are bypassing all the stakeholder committees and round table groups where hunters and biologists discuss wildlife management and hunting opportunity. These radicals are pushing their “I’m right and you’re an idiot” agenda and there are plenty of ice picks coming out to help open the minds of the rest of us to their versions of the truth. Even when looking at the science of white-tailed deer management many hunters seem to simply reject all the rationales based on emotion and a need to be right about something.  As much as what hunters claim we should use science and that wildlife management should not be based on emotion I feel too many hunters have been influenced by the Disney Bambi syndrome when it comes to being objective about antlerless deer hunting and people who just want to get some wild meat.

Some radical hunters have taken the next step and are harassing elected officials to attempt to coerce them into intervening in wildlife management decisions. This is the type of populist wildlife management that many of these same hunters were outspoken about when the debate over the grizzly hunt was made yet there they go doing the same thing. Other hunters are harassing and intimidating government biologists in attempts to coerce them into setting wildlife management strategies that align with their personal views of the world. When the science on white-tailed management and local harvest/population data are brought into the discussion some hunters say the information is all a bunch of lies exactly the same way anti-hunters did in the grizzly hunt debate when they said the biologists bear population estimates were a results of corruption in government. Some hunters are starting to use the phrase “beware of the science trap” meaning they are against the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and just want wildlife management to be based on the popular opinions of hunters.

A few local hunters are so aggressive in wanting their ideas on how the deer season should be set up they are getting ready to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into an anti-hunting like campaign in the New Year. The campaign is apparently going to be designed to convince the non-hunting public that hunters that choose to harvest an antlerless deer for food are decimating the deer population. They apparently plan to slander government biologists and get people to harass them in an attempt to coerce the government into banning the antlerless deer season. Many organized hunting conservation clubs, even ones that are genuinely asking whether the current antlerless harvest is sustainable or not, are distancing themselves from these radical anti-hunting hunters because they fear that their campaign will backfire and the non-hunting public is going to demand all hunting be shut down just like they did with the grizzly hunt.

The hunter folks planning this campaign probably have good intentions rooted in a desire for someone to simply hear their concerns. In part, their anger and hatred represents a failure of our wildlife management system because folks don’t feel they have a way to be heard. But where these folks will fail is if they do  launch a public slander campaign based on morally autocratic ideology and coercive intimidation tactics. If these hunters are truly concerned about conservation they need to be raising their concerns in a constructive way with other hunters and biologists. Instead these outspoken know-it-all hunters attack those that question their anti-science ideologies and have forced some others into the groupthink phenomena. Many hunters just want to be accepted by their peers and not get marginalized for thinking more critically about popular opinions so they are jumping on the anti-biologist band wagon. I wonder if they will have placards at their rallies that read “Ban the Deer Hunt” or “Stop the Bambi Killers“.

A Better [Deer] Path Forward

Whenever we deviate from science, wildlife and hunting opportunities decline. Science-based wildlife management requires both rigorous studies of wildlife and human dimension surveys of hunters. Hunters need to have more meaningful ways to contribute local knowledge and have an equal opportunity to voice their concerns or ask questions without being run over by the loud mouths.

If the opportunity to harvest one antlerless white-tailed deer in the East Kootenay is the precipitous event that gets the government of BC to realize the approach to wildlife management and funding for science in this province needs a complete overall then maybe the ensuing public controversy about to unfold in the New Year and the damage to the reputation of all hunters that follows will serve some useful purpose. If rationale thinking hunters decide to jump on this anti-biologist anti-antlerless deer season band wagon and be part of a slanderous intimidation campaign aimed at government biologists then they must also bear the responsibility if the campaign backfires and it makes us all look so bad that we lose all our hunting opportunities. If you don’t want to participate in any disrespectful or ignorant filled campaign but you still want to maintain your dignity as a hunter conservationist and deep commitment to the institution of hunting then embrace the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and advocate that its principles be followed. Help foster collaboration at the community level so we can all work together to make wildlife management better through the use of well-funded wildlife science and objective science-based hunter surveys.

The future of hunting is in your hands. Please choose wisely.

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