When this country was being explored and settled, there were no indoor-oriented folks in the ranks. The reason was simple: there was no indoors. This country was raw, wild and vast, 4,000 miles wide and 2,000 deep, divided by a mile-wide river. The only people who could tackle a place like that were tough, adaptable outdoor types.
These explorers spawned an adventurous tribe. As long as there was still wilderness to explore and conquer, they were happy. But through the act of fulfilling their need to see and challenge this wild country, they slowly but surely tamed it.
Today, we live in a changed world, and those of us whose lives are defined by the outdoors have become a minority, vastly outnumbered by urbanites and suburbanites who know their way around the asphalt jungles but not the green ones. Recreational opportunities for these “town folk” have shifted from rural to urban, from outdoor to indoor, from participant to spectator.
Football fans and computer jocks outnumber hunters and anglers by a wide margin. And therein lies a grave danger. You and I are hook-and-bullet types. We fish, hunt and trap, and therefore we’re in touch with nature. Maybe we’re not wildlife scientists, but we understand that every life that starts will eventually and inevitably end. We know the predatory role we assume is no more (and no less) helpful or harmful than those once played by the larger predators we have mostly replaced.
We know the following four things are the essence of modern wildlife management:
• A given habitat will support only so many animals.
• Given proper protection, a wildlife species will multiply until it fully occupies the available habitat.
• During the multiplication process, the species will produce surplus numbers of individuals to compensate for losses due to disease, predation and accident.
• As long as the number of animals removed from the population does not exceed this surplus, the wildlife population will either maintain itself or grow.
There are millions of variables, but every species of fi sh and animal, both game and non-game, fits into this general philosophy. From mallards to muskrats to marlin, from gray fox to grayling to gray jays; those are the broad guidelines under which all wildlife managers operate.
We don’t always know the intricacies of wildlife management, but we understand the validity of hunting, fishing and trapping. The problem is, the typical urbanite doesn’t get it. These folks are far removed from the natural world, and they lack both an appreciation for it and an understanding of it. Their view of nature comes from the Discovery Channel.
Or worse, the Disney Channel.
Their idea of an outdoor experience is riding in a car with the windows rolled down. To them, nature is Central Park. We can’t fault them for this, but we do have to understand them. We also have to take every opportunity to get them to understand us. They outnumber us hugely, and if they receive too much of the wrong information on hunting and fishing from anti groups, they can (and will) out-vote us on matters relating to trapping, hunting, fishing and the environment.
There are many ways we can win these urbanites to our side, but by far the most effective way is through one-on-one communication with friends, family and acquaintances who are members of this citified group. We all know people who don’t trap, hunt or fish, and we all have many opportunities to plant the seeds of understanding in these people.
It doesn’t have to be time consuming. A 10-minute chat with your non-hunting next-door neighbor or co-worker can turn a potential opponent into an understanding and supportive ally. Take somebody along on your trapline if they express any interest in going. Fly the colors. Beat the drum. Teach by showing. Convert by educating.
We all need to seize these opportunities every chance we get. In the ongoing war over our right to hunt, fish and trap, we need every friend we can find.
Jim Spencer, of Calico Rock, Ark., is executive editor of T&PC. To contact Jim, send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Spencer’s website at www.treblehookunlimited.com for information on his trapping products.