I received the following email yesterday. The salutation was addressed to “Mike”, so I’m not sure it was meant for me specifically. After reading through it, I can say that if it was meant for me, then the author really hasn’t followed a lot of what I’ve written over the years regarding the need for hunters to get past the distrust of the “tree huggers” and work on the extensive common ground (like this essay).
The message certainly contains some things I take issue with, including my pet peeve of comparing the land ethic of the aboriginal societies (Pomos and Miwoks in this case) with modern society as if the population of a few thousands is even relevant compared to the populations of tens of millions. But beyond that, he raises some interesting points that are worth consideration and discussion. So I thought I’d share it here now, whether it was intended for me or not:
Glad to see you addressing thie issue from the hunter’s point of view. I think you got it right as far as the politics go. Not so sure from how you present yourself that you really grasp the environmental movement, how complex it is, and how many people are active in it, what their real motivation is, and the fact that quite a few hard core environmentalists are hunters and fishermen.
I am a 4th generation Sonoma county native who was born in 1936 and grew up hunting and fishing around here, probably over 200 days a year, from the time I was 5 until I was 18 or so. When I started duck hunting the limit was just being reduced from 25 (50 in possession) to 15—and all the hunters were totally pissed off! After 4 years in the infantry I decided I didn’t want to be killing anything any more, nor did I need to blow off any more ordinance, so I set my weapons aside and found other ways to stay deeply involved with Nature. But I still respect hunters and hunting.
When it comes to pigs and turkeys you can’t kill enough of them fast enough for me. Especially pigs. You could help going after these new alien doves that are getting started around here, too.
But what we all need to front up about is that without the environmentalists there would be no hunting at all, because with out regulation, nearly all the native game would have long been wiped out. When I was a kid there were no mt lions or coyotes around because the hunters and farmers killed them all. No ravens either. Of course the Griz and even black bears are gone, along with the antelope and elk. Wood ducks were almost gone. Brant were down. Canvass backs were on the way out. Trout existed in the streams after the first few weeks of the season only because they were planted. Lots of local non game bird populations were being reduced, too. White tailed kites, for just one example, were down to about 20 in the state, because they were easy to shoot. Abalones were going down. Salmon were going down. Plus, from non—hunters, that is from farmers, developers, corporations, real estate interests, and just plain over population, even worse pressure was being deployed against the natural world. The so called resource conservation district drained the rich wetlands in the Santa Rosa valley. I don’t know who drained the Valley of the Moon. Everyone was polluting. Most of the best wild life terrain was taken over by the primates.
It goes on and on. Now the oceans are going down.
The Pomos and Miwoks lived here for what, thousands of years? Didn’t wipe the wildlife out at all…even though they were eating it for subsistence. What I’m driving at here is that these people, and an increasing amount of modern people, found ways to see themselves as what we would now call environmentalists…they cared about the environment and did not treat people who urged restraint the way many hunters now treat and talk about most environmental efforts. Man for man, they were all better hunters than any of us. They were very careful about their killing. They made communal decisions about which animals and how many to take. They never hung deer heads on the wall.
I think the day that hunters find some way to begin to think of themselves as environmentalists, and identify themselves with environmental protection programs—and actually get out and support and work for some of these programs (ducks unlimited being a great example)—get out there and educate themselves instead of just bad mouthing every move the environmentalists make– there will be better hunting and fishing available for those who do want to hunt and fish in a righteous manner.
Sounds like you are on that path. But I’d like to see you talking about environmentalism as something good you recognize is good and important, not as some basically distasteful movement you have to monitor and interact with in order to keep from being overwhelmed.
It really begins with the rhetoric you use. It takes some guts.
For myself, at age 74 next moth, I’ve finally found a way of being out in nature that is as deep and as satisfying as hunting. Tracking/birdlanguage. This year I passed my first evaluation test and got certified as one of only 600 internationally certified trackers in the world. Passing that grueling, two day long field test with 60 or 70 stations each day was every bit as satisfying as killing my first buck over half a century ago. The only difference now is that I know I am giving something back to nature, instead of just taking. My partner and I have set up a tracking guide and workshop business, and we are starting to plug people into nature in a very positive and satisfying way without having to kill anything.
But I’m still okay with hunting. I still know quite a few hunters. What I’m not okay with is the mindless hostility so many hunters dump on those of us who are trying to urge some restraint on societies treatment of wildlife and the environment. I’m just as opposed to the airy-fairy, don’t kill anything sentimentality that some environmentalists espouse. I can see you are standing in a transition point between the two camps. What I would hope would be to see you fully a hunter, and fully an environmentalist at the same time, like quite a few of my friends. Don’t treat environmentalists as some misguided fools who need to be placated. Treat them as fellow lovers of nature who are working toward sustainability so that our kids can enjoy the natural world, too.
Meantime, shoot a couple of extra pigs for me.