Before I begin, let me start by saying that I love hunting. I have always loved hunting and I will always love hunting. And not just for that monster racked, world class, “get you on the front of a magazine” buck (of which I have never been fortunate enough to get, mostly because I hunt for completely different and more primal reasons. I like to eat what I shoot.). But also for squirrel, rabbit, elk, hog, turkey, pheasant, dove… You get the picture. But it is getting way too costly to hunt. I mean, when I was young it was nothing for me to go to the local farmer, promise to leave the place cleaner than I found it, KEEP MY PROMISE, and hunt for free. I also made wonderful friends and got to meet my neighbors. I learned a lot about hunting, fishing, hiking and farming from the kind folks who molded me into the hunter I am today. I would have gladly (and did) helped plant food plots, purchase seed or help out with anything my farmer friends needed just for the right to be one of the privileged allowed to hunt on their property. That meant I worked tobacco, picked corn, pulled weeds and earned the respect of the owners of the land. Sometimes they would slip us corn, carrots or beans (whatever) to help supplement the venison or other game we took off the property. It meant that hunting wasn’t just a sport but also a community binding event. It’s no wonder the first week of deer season was a holiday from school. It was a family building, community strengthening event. But today, in order to hunt, I need to lease property for no less than $1500 a weekend. I hardly know the people whose land I am on and they have spent a great deal to manage the game on their land. They don’t know me nor do they trust me. I have no sweat equity in the privilege and therefore no guarantee I will protect their investment. Therefore, I don’t have the same community building experiences to share with my children I took from my father and grandfather. What happened to the day when hunting was as important to the community as it was to the conservation of the land and the survival of the hunter. It is greed. As long as farmers can continue to receive huge amounts of monies just for the right to freeze your tails off in a tree stand for eight hours with no guarantee of success, they will. They will justify it as game management, land preservation, insurance, etc. And you really don’t know if that is true because you haven’t been there beyond that 2 weeks prior to or that last week of the season. When did we let lawyers into the hunting industry? They substituted contracts and “legalese” for camaraderie and community and as important as venison or squirrel or rabbit or elk is to my family, they aren’t worth $1500. Gone are the days when the only expense that I had was taxidermy (actually something I never seemed to have enough cash for so no mounts on my walls, much do my disappointment.) In today’s “we have to work harder”, “we have no time to get to know you”, “you aren’t as important as me, me, me” society, we forgot that hunting wasn’t just about putting racks, or beards and spurs on walls. Hunting should be about family, tradition, community, conservation and preservation. It should be as intrinsic to our being as hard work and going to the grocers for food. The same effort should be made to protect our right to feed our family as we put into shopping or meeting the families to our left, right and across the road. These are things we should be teaching our children. Instead we focus on the “me” factor. “What can I do for me?” What happened to “what can I do for the people around me”? It went away when we discovered we could make $1500 a weekend letting someone we don’t know abuse our land and contribute nothing to the community, hunt. This is the wrong way to keep the privilege alive. There was no question, when I was young, about the morality of hunting. I earned the right to hunt by working with the families I wanted to hunt with by helping them improve their land, thereby improving my chances of scoring meat for my table and other tables in my community. It was truly a win/win. It cost me the money for ammunition or arrows, licensing and gadgets. No one ever said that it was inhumane because there were no questions about what was more important, the community and conservation or animal rights and animal cruelty. (I find it a lot crueler watching the over-population and starvation of game species and I hope you do too.) As long as hunters are charged outrageous amount of monies to hunt and farmers never get to know the hunter and the benefits of allowing him to help improve the land, hunting season and community ALL YEAR ‘ROUND, Hunting will suffer, anti hunting politicians will have a strong foot hold to take the food out of my children’s mouths and our community will become weaker as a whole. Help keep hunting alive and free. Don’t allow greed to cloud the reason for hunting. It is not a sport of “me” but a community building way to feed our families. If we do this, we will have hunting for generations to come.
SSG Eugene D. Blair III
Fort Bliss, Texas