Sun Tzu said “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

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Arizona hunters are facing a challenge and I am concerned that we (the collective “we”) don’t know the enemy, and maybe even worse – we don’t know ourselves. If you haven’t heard, there is a movement afoot to ban the hunting of lions and bobcats in Arizona. The group that is spearheading the initiative is called Arizonans for Wildlife, and they are backed (or at least allied with) the Humane Society of the United States – a lobbying group bent on eradicating all hunting, fishing, rodeos, etc. You can learn more about HSUS here: HumaneWatch.org

There are lots of hunters on social media downplaying or ignoring this effort. There are lots who mock the efforts of these anti-hunters. They make fun of the messengers and not the message. They are complacent or worse – full of bravado, scoffing at the effort. The problem is, they don’t put themselves into the mind of the “average, non-hunting voter”. Many of the petitioners are using erroneous information or flat-out lies to get their petitions signed. They are counting on emotion and embellishment to garnish signatures. They are mobilized and are seemingly all over the state trying to get folks to sign their petition. Frankly, they appear to be better funded and better organized than we are. Make no mistake – if this gets on the ballot, I think lion and bobcat hunting are done in Arizona.

I have lots of non-hunting friends. Most of them are intelligent, reasonably well-educated and generally speaking, responsible citizens. They don’t hunt, they don’t know much about it, but they don’t really care that I hunt. So imagine one of those folks – soccer moms, engineers, teachers- is walking into a store and is confronted with posters of mangled lions and bloody bobcats. They plead with you to sign the petition to end “trophy hunting” in Arizona. Of course they will. Why would they not sign? If the same issue ends up on the ballot, same result. We are not “fighting the anti’s” as some think – rather, our campaign should be to educate the 60 or 70% or so of the public that doesn’t hunt, but isn’t necessarily anti-hunting.

I’m not yelling that the sky is falling. We have no way to gauge their success so far. That being said, I think there is at least a reasonable chance that we will fail, and this will go on the ballot. Too many of us are buffoons – “Killin is what we do. I ain’t gonna hide it by saying harvest”. “Let them ban it – I’m gonna hunt anyway”. Too many of us are convinced the way we do it is the right way, but we don’t like rangefinders/compound bows/long range rifles/hunting with hounds/trapping/crossbows/whatever. New hunters asking newbie questions on Social Media are mocked and ostracized. Do you think for a minute when someone is considering joining PETA that they are told unceremoniously to “figure it out for themselves” when they ask questions? Do you think animal rights’ groups struggle at fundraising and rallying volunteers? Recruiting comes easy to animal rights’ groups. For lots of hunters, recruitment is largely unimportant.

We need to get our collective act together. The way we win this battle is to be well-organized, well-funded and UNITED. We need to present well to the public; both face-to-face and on social media. We need to educate the non-hunting public with facts about the issues. We need to publicize our massive (and unmatched by any anti-hunting groups) efforts aimed at habitat improvement and preservation. We need to educate the non-hunting public on the North American Conservation model and just how well our state manages wildlife – both game and non-game species. That is how we win this battle. And the next one. And all of the battles coming after that. These groups are committed to end hunting. Then fishing. Then rodeos. Bluster doesn’t win this. Organization does. Unity does. Reason and science do.

Talk to your non-hunting friends about this movement. Don’t preach or cajole – tell our success stories. We have lots.

Remind them that in California, where lion hunting was banned, lion and human/pet encounters have shot upwards and taxpayers are now paying to have lions killed when they threaten communities.

Per this great article in the Arizona Daily Sun, “the annual harvest of mountain lions in Arizona is 250 with a stable population of 2,700. Considering a male mountain lion home range is 100 square miles and they don’t tolerate other male lions in their home range and the available habitat for mountain lions in Arizona is 75,240 square miles, we have one mountain lion for every 28 square miles. Ban lion hunting and more mountain lions will have to kill other mountain lions just to survive.”

Science. Not emotion, not rhetoric. Educate, don’t berate.

Check out this great article at the Arizona Elk Society: Decline to Sign

On Facebook, visit: Arizonans for Wildlife Accuracy or Arizonans for Wildlife Uncensored

Also on Facebook, visit Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation

Another great resource is the website Support Wildlife Conservation

Photo credit: AZGFD.gov

Finally

Here are some facts:

Arizona voters deserve to know the truth about this issue and the following are FACTS:

*There is NO SUCH THING AS TROPHY hunting of mountain lions in our state, so no hunting ban is needed to stop it.

*Jaguars, ocelots and Canadian lynx (the latter of which doesn’t exist here) are already federally protected so no hunting ban is needed to protect them.

*Data from our wildlife agency shows healthy populations of mountain lions and bobcats given their sustainable habitat. Their numbers are not and never will be in danger due to managed hunting. A ban on hunting is not needed to protect their numbers.

*Habitat loss due to increased human population and activity is the primary reason for population decreases of many species in recent history. A hunting ban does nothing to solve the problem of habitat loss and can potentially do harm when unmanaged populations exceed available habitat. Our state wildlife agency is trained to react to changes in habitat and has successfully managed over 800+ species through these changes for nearly 100 years.

*Arizonans for Wildlife (aka Humane Society of the United States) has not provided data, specific to Arizona, showing expected mountain lion growth following a hunting ban and the effect of more cats in a finite habitat.

The voters deserve to see the environmental impact study the HSUS conducted in Arizona regarding the ban on hunting wild cats.

Decline to sign their petitions and ask your family and friends to do the same. Help us spread the word!