Trappers should be educating non-trappers about what we do
The TV news item was about the upcoming duck season, and the soundtrack in the background was a recording of somebody blowing a duck caller. The calling wasn’t bad, but what ruined it for me was the film clip they were running to illustrate duck hunting.
They were filming a flock of coots.
Unfortunately, that sort of stuff is pretty common on today’s television and movie programming. Pay attention, and you’ll see it all the time. I bet I’ve watched a dozen movies where they show a flock of cranes or ibises or some other species that flies in a V formation, accompanied by an overlaid soundtrack of — you guessed it — goose music.
Things like this are laughable, but they ought to also serve as warning flags. Every instance should remind us that not everyone is as knowledgeable about things outdoors as we are, and that simple but profound fact can (and often does) come back to bite us. In fact, the general lack of knowledge of the public about nature might well be the biggest problem we trappers, hunters and anglers face.
Sure, there are plenty of other things for us to worry about — loss of habitat to urban encroachment, shrinking access to public and private land, decreasing recruitment of young people into the outdoor lifestyle we know and love. But at the end of the day, none of those things will matter if our legal right to trap gets taken away at the ballot box.
And slowly but surely, that’s what’s happening. Right now, for example, there’s a petition drive in Montana to get an initiative on the 2014 ballot prohibiting trapping on any public land in that state. See Toby Walrath’s piece in the November 2013 issue for more on that. If this thing passes, more than a third of Montana would be closed to trapping.
Montana wouldn’t be the first state where it’s happened, either. It’s already against the law to trap on public land in Arizona and Colorado, and trappers have been so restricted and legislation-crippled in states like California, Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey that I swear I can’t understand why any trapper would live there.
The reason this has happened, and the reason it continues to be a threat, goes right back to that coots instead of ducks, cranes instead of geese thing — a widespread lack of knowledge in the non-hunting, non-trapping public about all things wild. Most of these folks aren’t necessarily against hunting or trapping. They’re not anorexic, wild-eyed vegans. They eat meat just like we do. Nor are they stupid. They just have no interest in hunting or trapping. That’s all. And so they don’t bother to learn anything about it.
But they care about wildlife in an abstract, feel-good sort of way, and that’s why they’re susceptible to the exaggerations, half-truths and flat-out lies the zealots on the bunny-hugger side of the fence keep throwing at them. For example, it’s true what the anti’s say, that the lion does sometimes lay down with the lamb. But what the anti’s always forget to mention is that the reason the lion does so is so it can more comfortably eat the lamb.
It’s up to us to stop this brainwashing of the non-hunting, non-trapping public, and the most effective way to do it is personal communication. Every trapper has many friends and family members who don’t hunt or trap. These folks would be more inclined to believe us than they would be to believe some complete stranger telling them trapping and hunting are evil. However, they won’t get our side of the story unless we tell them.
Are you doing that with your friends and relatives? If so, thanks very much, and keep up the good work.
If you’re not, you’re part of the problem.
Jim Spencer, of Calico Rock, Ark., is executive editor of T&PC. To contact Jim, send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at www.treblehookunlimited.com.