By JIM ABRAMS
While an occasional participant, I am not a fan of social media. It’s not that there isn’t a lot of good information floating around, and I do enjoy connecting with friends. But there are serious problems, including bullying; users slipping into unwelcome rants; and misrepresented information passed off as facts.
Every now and then a post surfaces of someone with a game animal that they’ve harvested. It might be an Alaskan grizzly, African elephant or a local whitetail deer. If the picture involves a person who owns a business, their social superiors demand a boycott. If the picture is of a doctor or some Texas cheerleader, they suffer the modern equivalent of tarring and feathering.
Hidden by anonymity, the critics use drummed-up emotion and indignation with few facts or any understanding of the basic principles of conservation. It ends up becoming the worst type of manipulation, trapping many who react only to the emotion. We all know that it isn’t limited to the portrayal of hunting, but across a far-too-wide list of targets.
The latest I spotted was of a business owner with an elephant he’d killed. Never mind that the photo is nearly a decade old and the hunt was legal. He was called a murderer, with his actions equated to child abuse. He was accused of harming the planet and pushing animals to extinction. Some even called for his death. What I didn’t see was civility or facts.
So what are the facts? It’s no secret that parts of Africa suffer from periodic droughts and that much of the habitat base is shrinking. There are also problems with regional poaching, which authorities work hard to combat. Some populations, including the elephant’s, are shrinking. Planned, professional conservation management is being used to help these herds survive.
How does hunting help a dwindling population? In most cases around the world the problem begins with diminishing habitats. It matters little if we’re discussing Ohio’s ruffed grouse, the Florida panther, western wolves, the rainforests’ harpy eagle or African elephants: Vanishing habitat and human expansion are the leading troubles they face. The solutions vary with each species.
Many animals of the African plains move in groups. This serves as protection against the apex predators that roam the lands looking for an unsuspecting meal. Contrary to the belief that meat-eaters only cull the weak, old or young, predators are really just opportunists. A healthy zebra making the wrong turn while fleeing is all it takes to become a meal for a lion’s cubs — and that’s perfectly natural and should be expected and respected, not demonized.
Herding has another effect: It concentrates the animals in an area until food resources are stripped, a situation which takes months — sometimes years — to recover from. The animals move to other areas to find food and the predators follow. Due to habitat loss attributed to human expansion of dwellings, business or farming as well as drought, fire and the animals own voracious appetite, the basics of life suffer.
Food, water, shelter and space hit critical mass and starvation becomes rampant. The shrinking available habitat sometimes drives animals into areas inhabited by humans. This often causes severe damage to the meager crops being raised for subsistence, and direct attacks are not uncommon.
When these situations begin developing, an effort has to be made to cull some of the adult members of the herds. This is often done by professionals who are paid by the governments. Whenever possible, permits are handed out to allow hunters the opportunity to take these animals. Their removal helps to relieve the survival stress on the herd, stretches the available food sources and enhances the health and survival of the remaining animals. A few die so many might live.
Much of the meat harvested remains with the people who share the land with these roaming herds. The money spent on special licensure bolsters conservation efforts in those money-strapped countries to save animals from the uncontrolled poacher’s black market as well as improving habitat resources. Professional guides bring money into the economy and offer jobs to areas that have few opportunities.
We may not have the plains of the Serengeti in the U.S., but we’ve dealt with the devastation of the Kaibab National Forest by over-populated deer and elk herds. We are currently in emotion-based fights concerning expanding wolf and mountain lion populations, and there are even those who would like to try and sterilize deer herds at your expense.
Hunting and fishing license fees are vital to managing our wildlife resources. They fund research, land purchases, habitat reestablishment, endangered and nongame species programs, reintroduction efforts, enforcement and protection, education … and the list goes on.
Hunting isn’t for everybody — I get that better than most people. Neither is butchering, but many of us still eat bacon. We need to broaden our understanding of conservation concepts and how they are used to preserve and fund wildlife habitats. Apex predators, including man, are nature’s natural tools used to cull animal herds so the species can survive. So are the much crueler thirst and starvation. This is the real circle of life.
“After our ages-long journey from savagery to civility, let’s hope we haven’t bought a round-trip ticket.” — Cullen Hightower
Along the way:
How would you like to take your favorite hunting partners on the bowhunt of a lifetime? Yeah … me too. Unfortunately, my pockets aren’t that deep either. But we can all dream, so why not dream together?
Join the Sportsmen’s Alliance, Attaboyz Archery and Cabela’s for the kickoff of Ohio’s archery deer season. Full Draw Film Tour returns to the Drexel Theater, Columbus, on Wednesday, Sept. 25 with an outstanding collection of archery films.
Enjoy the spectacular scenery found during elk, whitetail, moose and pronghorn hunts from around the nation. The Full Draw Film Tour has them all. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the films begin at 7 p.m.
Raffle tickets will be available at intermission for chances to win some incredible gear from Cabela’s, Attaboyz Archery Center, Rocky, YETI, ALPS OutdoorZ, Weston Brands, Moultrie and other fine companies. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for those 17 years of age and younger. Become a member of the Sportsmen’s Alliance at the $50 or higher level, and enjoy one free admission.
To purchase tickets or for more information, call 614-888-4868. Proceeds will be used to support the Sportsmen’s Alliance work to defend our outdoor heritage.
• Today: Ohio State Trappers Association convention, Madison County Fairgrounds, 205 Elm St., London. For the full schedule, visit www.ohiostatetrapper.org/events
• Sunday: Sporting clays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243.
• Thursday and Friday: Trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243.
• Sept. 14: Trapping and snaring seminar, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Ghost Town, 10630 Hancock County 40. Join Black Swamp Bucks, Ohio State Trappers Association and the Division of Wildlife as they bring you the best information about current trapping rules, regulations, gear, methodology and species-specific information during hands-on demonstrations. The event is free and lunch is provided. There will be some pretty nifty giveaway and raffle prizes, too.
• Sept. 21 and 22: Thirty-target 3-D deer season warm-up archery shoot, registration opens at 8 a.m., Field and Stream Bowhunters, 11400 Allen Township 109. Contact Harold Spence at 419-423-9861.
• Hunter and trapper education class information. Options, locations and registration information are available at http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard, OH 45867-0413 or via email at email@example.com