The Scientist: “Hunters are the true conservationists of our country. Here’s why.”

Meadow Jean Kouffeld is a Regional Biologist with the Ruffed Grouse Society, as well as an avid hunter and conservation activist. She recently starred in the Project Upland series about hunting and conservation. Here she delves deep into the relationship between the two and why contrary to a commonly held view by non-hunters, it is hunters who lead the way in modern conservation in North America.

In North America we have undergone some dramatic shifts in wildlife populations in post European settlement which lead to the dramatic demise of once incredibly abundant species from big game to waterfowl to furbearers.

Fortunately there were sportsmen who enjoyed hunting for sport and cared about the future existence of North America’s wildlife populations. Sportsmen were the first to push for protections of species through restricted take and hunting seasons. Around the turn of the 19th century Theodore Roosevelt, a sport hunter, became America’s 26th president and stands as one of the greatest conservationists in American history.

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“No other user group contributes more money to wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation and management than hunters.”

He developed what would become the United States Forest Service and set aside our first Wildlife Refuges to protect breeding bird populations. The relationship between hunters and conservation in North America is no different today.

Photo by @Meadow Kouffeld
Meadow and her sister as children on a hunt in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Photo by @Meadow Kouffeld
Meadow and her daughter, Heidi, after a successful deer hunt

Photo by @Meadow Kouffeld

No other user group contributes more money to wildlife habitat conservation and management. Whether it is through the purchase of hunting licenses, tags, paying an excise tax on firearms and ammunition, or supporting hunter based conservation organizations. As a result hunters are the true conservationists in our country.

Non-hunters (non-consumptive users like bird watchers) have a hard time understanding or accepting that hunters are conservationists. Many do not agree with the killing of the animals they enjoy watching.

One of the more common protests made by non-hunters regarding hunters as conservationists is: “How can you say you care about conserving wildlife when you kill them?” Or something to that effect.

I can understand how it may be difficult to understand something counterintuitive as being beneficial. Especially in a world where people tend to focus on individual animals and their lives.

“Hunters care about and have a personal investment in the future of wildlife and the habitats they depend upon.”

However wildlife is managed at a population level and many of the species that non-consumptive users enjoy today would not exist if it wasn’t for concerned hunters and the money they spend on wildlife and habitat conservation and management.

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No other user group ‘pays to play’ like hunters. This is an important point to make but it must be done tactfully. As with anything, there will be non-hunters that will disagree regardless of facts and information. They will refuse to see the relationship or acknowledge the history.

To me, being a hunter means to be honest with one’s self about what we are and having a deep connection to the land and wildlife.

This connection comes from an internal place rooted in humans as a species and from being a part of an ecosystem. Hunter’s care about and have personal investment in the future of wildlife and the habitats they depend upon.

Hunter’s may enjoy their success and the meat it provides, but the greatest fulfillment comes from the hunt and being a part of the natural world.

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