It’s that crazy time of year again. No not turkey season, there will be lots of posts about that soon enough, I’m talking about that whacky time of year come to be known as Political Silly Season. Oh the joy of blogging about politics. Politics has a way of really infuriating opposing views so, to avoid turning this into an ugly debate I’ll just write about something that I feel is important to my intended audience of fellow hunters and that is our rights as citizens of this state to hunt.
Nebraska is a rather conservative state and with that tends to come a certain lifestyle. Hunting has long been an activity related to the red states and as a matter of fact in 2012 Nebraskans voted to make hunting a constitutional right in this state. In Nebraska we may not often see opposition to that way of life and I tend to question if we take our hunting rights for granted? Many states around us face a constant battle to protect legally approved ways of hunting various species, seasons, or methods. Ongoing pressure by anti-hunting agendas like PETA and The Humane Society of the U.S. has eliminated bear hunting with dogs in states like West Virginia and much of the west. The state of Michigan, which is one of the heaviest deer hunting states in America, has a 110 year old ban on dove hunting despite the state’s DNR’s own website stating: “The mourning doves is one of the most abundant and widely distributed bird species in the United States. The current continent-wide population estimate is over 400 million in the fall migration”. A public vote in 2006 to overturn the ban failed almost 2:1, this in a state that sees nearly 600,000 deer hunters, who the US Fish and Wildlife service estimates generate $2.3 billion dollars to Michigan’s economy. One of the reasons given for the ban, by the opposition, is that doves are not a sustainable food source.
That facts surrounding the Michigan dove ban should be rather alarming because many of the arguments that we as hunters use to justify hunting to our non-hunting friends lost badly in a state where deer hunting is a widely accepted and practiced way of life. I had a discussion with a non-hunting coworker not too long ago about our individual beliefs for and against hunting. I’m for all forms of legal hunting and I think it’s important to point out the terms “legal” and “all” in that statement. While many bowhunters tend to think our way is the best way, and you can argue that all day, (I’m not much of a rifle hunter) it’s undeniable the value that rifle hunting has both financially and as a conservation tool. I’m also not what I’d consider a “sport hunter” or “trophy hunter” but I fully support those that are. This is the point of contention by my co-worker. She was ok with hunting for food but not for sport. I think it’s because she didn’t have an understanding as to how conservation and sport hunting work on species that aren’t traditionally considered tasty query. While many non-hunters may be okay with deer, elk, turkey, or even moose hunting as a way of gathering food for a family they tend to want to draw the line on hunting just for antlers or heads to display on a wall. I would argue that protecting our hunting rights and heritage means defending all forms of hunting. “Food hunting” was not enough to allow dove hunting in Michigan and it can be as simple as that one little angle that the anti-hunters use to get their foot in the door to shut down not just dove hunting but all forms of hunting.
The idea that “sport hunting” is a bad thing has never been more played up than in the notorious case of a Minnesota dentist who shot and killed a lion in a game preserve in Zimbabwe. The “Cecil the Lion” story can be found anywhere on the internet so if you’re not familiar, look it up. The basics are that a wealthy man paid an outfitter $50,000 to hunt and kill a male African lion. The story takes a turn when at one point the dentist, either knowingly or unknowingly, entered a preserve where a tourist-favorite male lion nicknamed Cecil was hunted and killed. Although the ethics of the hunt may be questionable the hunt was legal, and it generated a substantial amount of money for the local economy and government and did no known, immediate harm to the health of the pride. The masses took to the internet with great fury and in a matter of time had raised petitions of outrage that would ultimately lead to death threats for the hunter, the closure of his business due to his overwhelming unpopularity, and actions to close down the practice of trophy hunting of lions in Zimbabwe. Wow! Talk about power. Less than a year later, the Zimbabwe government is now considering “culling” (a nice way of saying killing) nearly 200 lions from the same preserve as they are overeating their prey and some lions are dying of starvation because the ecosystem is unsustainable without hunting. Instead of hunters paying nearly $50,000 to trophy hunt the very same animals, the government is considering hiring sharp shooters to come in and kill the overpopulated lions, what an incredibly horrible idea. 200 lions at $50,000 each is a lot of lost money that is now subsidized by taxpayers or simply unavailable to fund conservation programs. Where is PETA, The HSUS, or the outraged internet mob to help with this problem now? Conservation efforts that have lasted, and thrived for decades, whose funds help defend the same animals from poaching, has been thwarted and defunded. The irony in all of this is the victim is actually the lion, along with all the other animals that support the lion’s ecosystem. You see the boycott and up-rise doesn’t affect just popular 1 lion, it affects thousands of animals of different species within any given ecosystem. That’s the essence of conservation and it should be run by experts such as biologists and scientists who understand the role hunters play, not the internet or anti-hunting agendas.
Trophy hunting tends to be associated with animals like the lion, or bears, or other animals atop the food chain that don’t have natural predators of their own, and the hunter’s role is to be that predator. Trophy hunts tend to center around animals portrayed in your kids’ favorite cartoons, Disney movies, or make great stuffed animals, or even pets. No lions and bears aren’t pets but their domesticated relatives are, and to me this is another one of the reasons there is out such outrage about hunting them for sport. People seem to think it’s their little pet Fluffy getting killed in the wild and they really have no idea about the facts, mother-nature, or the role hunters play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem for not just their perceived cute and cuddly pet’s relatives to thrive in, but all of nature’s creatures. That’s where offices like the US Fish and Wildlife Service and our own Nebraska Game and Parks Commission come in to play. These agencies strive to balance the ecosystem with healthy population levels of all species. Their number one way for balancing these herds is the same way in which they generate the funds to operate, through hunting.
All of this ties together as I consider the actions of Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers and his constant attempts to end mountain lion hunting in Nebraska. He has continually tried to take the season away by many efforts. He doesn’t want them hunted with dogs, sound familiar West Virginia bear hunters? Sound familiar bear hunters across the west? He doesn’t want the game and park commission to have the right to control the decision to set regulations regarding their hunting seasons. Sound familiar Zimbabwe? His backers know they are not a viable food source and exploit that, sound familiar Michigan? With the right emotional plea (which he repeatedly plays) it may not be difficult to convince non-hunters that mountain lions aren’t one of nature’s most efficient killers, but portrayed as a family pet being needlessly killed by cruel and evil hunters. This same tactic has worked on the federal level in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana where wolf populations have been allowed to go unchecked due to hunting being illegal for far too long. Although legal now the detrimental effects on deer, elk, and moose herds is long overdue. All three of those states are hunting states too. Nebraska is a hunting state, with a constitutional right to hunt, and we support hunting as evidenced by an email I received from state Senator Deb Fischer. Her statistics state 289,000 Nebraska hunters spend $780 million dollars annually. Impressive but that didn’t seem to matter in Michigan who has three times as many hunters who spend nearly three times more. Michigan hunters were only protecting a dove, with a population of nearly 400 million! We’re fighting for rights to hunt an animal whose image be likened to that of as a house cat with a population estimated at less than 100. This could go badly if the decision to manage the hunt is taken out of the hands of the experts. The Nebraska Game and Parks testified in hearings on the mountain lion debate that the first season license sales generated $60,000. That money is being used to fund more studies on the lions to help determine when it does and does not make sense to hunt them. That is an intelligent way of managing their populations. Leave the decisions to the experts, not politicians.
I’m proud to be a part of the NBA, an organization that has been on the forefront of fighting for our rights as bowhunters in this state even when the agenda may not be specifically bowhunting. The NBA has been fighting long before I joined and has won many times with efforts including implementing a bowhunter education program, extending seasons allowing for more bowhunting only days, and getting to bowhunt during rifle season. This is another one of those examples. The fight to protect our constitutional right to hunt, which includes mountain lions, is an important one. This is not a time to give up any ground on this issue. As you can see above any time a state, or country has lost that ground it has had disastrous results for the sportsman. Chances are you are surrounded by like-minded people who are also hunters so these discussions often go the same way. But if you look at it, we had 289,000 hunters in a state of nearly 1.6 million. We’re still greatly outnumbered by people that don’t hunt, or are anti-hunters. Those aren’t great odds so we can’t let uninformed voters make decisions about hunting for us. I encourage each of you to make it a priority to become active in some way like becoming more active in the NBA to keep up on what is going on around us. I signed up for newsletters from sources like the United State Sportsman’s Alliance which is a watchdog group that fights anti-hunting legislation. One of the best possible ways to be involved is to reach out to your Senator and let them know your thoughts and feelings about hunting and our rights in Nebraska to hunt. At the time of this writing my Senator Patty Pansing-Brooks stated she would be voting for LB 475 and against AM 2489. LB 475 would allow the Game and Parks the authority to raise fees on permits for outdoor recreation for the first time in 7 years. While no one wants to pay more for the outdoors, the Game and Parks estimates the fees are projected to raise $5 million in new revenue. That’s sportsman funding conservation at its finest. As expected Senator Chambers tried to filibuster to add amendment 2489 to the bill to take away the authority by the NGPC to allow mountain lion hunting. A recent vote of 42-2 to cease the debate ended this round of Chamber’s filibuster. This is a victory for Nebraska’s Sportsmen, but it is not the end.
The Budget Bowhunter