Legal Hunting Benefits People and Wildlife

Dave's Wild Life

Naming my blog “Dave’s Wild Life” allows me to cast a wide net over the natural world, in and outside the wild. Sure, I will talk about Naples Zoo now and then but there is so much more to discuss regarding wild animals and wild places around our area and beyond.

Since hunting season just opened here in south Florida I thought I’d tackle this subject. There is a thriving outdoor community in our area. Bass Pro Shops wouldn’t have built down here were it otherwise. Their parking lot is always packed. Proof positive that people are hunting and fishing and they need the gear to get it done.

I believe that most citizens are willing to accept hunting with the caveat that the hunter eats what he or she kills. Plus, 97% of us eat meat anyway. Let’s face it; the cow is as dead as the deer. We all tend to put our own values on one life or one species over another. I find it hypocritical when someone finds hunting distasteful and then goes on to say how they killed a harmless snake in their garage.

I bowhunt, which means most of the time I come home sweaty, tired and bug bit and nothing for the freezer. But it’s a challenging and legal activity that provides me with my down time out where the pavement ends. Occasionally I do get lucky and my family eats the delicious and health benefitting results. I have friends who are vegetarians for their own ethical or health reasons and I can respect that. We just agree to disagree on our chosen lifestyles and move on. But most of them understand the need for hunting and wildlife management; they just choose not to participate.

I also try to dismiss the stereotype some people have of the outdoor community; that hunters are a cartoonish lot of toothless, illiterate, chaw spitting bumpkins. I have hunted with doctors, lawyers, engineers, plumbers, teachers, realtors, carpenters, veterinarians, biologists, and many other walks of life. All of whom shatter that typical, and false, hunter stereotype. We love being outside just as much as anyone else; it just happens that we are consumptive users.

For those who just enjoy watching wildlife, remember that it was hunters’ dollars and conservation programs that saved many now common species from extinction. Deer, wild turkey, elk and pronghorn antelope were on the brink a century ago because of market hunting. This practice of killing as much as one could and selling the meat almost wiped out many species. Sound wildlife management practices and controlled hunting seasons returned these animals to the abundant numbers we see today. The whitetail deer population, for example, has gone from less than 500,000 a hundred years ago to an estimated 25 million today.

There was a time when I suppose one could say I was almost an anti-hunter. I had my pre-conceived notions about hunting and kept those until I finally chose to educate myself. With the eradication of many of our natural predators man has assumed this role. Deer populations have exploded. They need to be managed and hunting does that. Within twenty years, experts believe feral hogs will have invaded every state. They are a destructive nuisance and hunters can help with that problem, too. Hunting also helps drive the economy. In Florida alone, hunting creates over 7,000 jobs and its annual economic impact is over 800 million dollars. I also learned that Florida has 5.5 million acres of public land that is partly supported through the sales of hunting licenses and taxes on outdoor gear. Three out of four people enjoying these lands are non-hunters. Hikers, cyclists, bird watchers, kayakers, and photographers can all give partial thanks to hunters for this privilege.

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