Conservation groups depend on hunters’ generosity

Hunters and anglers have been the people who pay for conservation for generations. The vast majority of the dollars spent on wildlife and habitat come from license fees and taxes on hunting and fishing gear. But we can still do more.

As hunters, it’s our responsibility to take care of the critters we hunt, as well as those we don’t. We have to obey the game laws. Police ourselves to be sure others respect the wildlife. And even offer suggestions to the Game and Fish Commission when we think there are better ways to ensure that the land and the animals will be there for future generations.

Conservation has become a dirty word to some hunters. Say “conservation,” and a lot of people immediately envision some weirdo sitting in a tree or standing outside a fast-food restaurant wearing a chicken suit. But if we want to continue hunting, we have to embrace conservation. We’ve got to be hunter conservationists.

The best way to do that is to hold ourselves to high ethical standards, and make sure everyone we hunt with does the same. And we have to give more to the resource than we are required to. By that I mean give more than just our license fees. Maybe even volunteer for on-the-ground habitat improvement projects.

You can do both if you join one of the many conservation groups out there. Ducks Unlimited, turkey federation, elk foundation, Foundation for North American Wild Sheep and Pheasants Forever are just a few.

But those groups don’t focus completely on their namesake animal. For instance, Ducks Unlimited raises money and organizes volunteers to give all waterfowl a helping hand. In the bargain, they also help the nongame species that share habitat with the birds.

But we have to get involved. If we don’t, the anti-hunting groups will have louder voices, and hunting will disappear. With it will go the wildlife. There’s just no way the anti-hunting groups alone will be able to pony up the dough hunters do.

So join an organization. Join several. Keep our traditions going strong.