This feature appears in the November ‘17 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.
Hunting is in decline. We’ve all seen and heard the depressing numbers. Many of us have given talks and written articles espousing the benefits of the outdoor lifestyle and encouraging the next generation to seek adventures that can only be experienced afield. We scream from the rafters, “Hunters are the real conservationists!!” While our messages are true, they’re falling on deaf ears. Our increasingly urbanized society moves on about their busy lives disconnected from the world we live in.
There are many reasons for society’s indifference. Demographics have changed; access has changed; economic reasoning has changed; policies and laws have changed. But most impactful to all of this is the emotionally charged and well-orchestrated attack on our hunting culture and traditions by animal rights organizations.
While we have all been preaching to the congregation and spending our time building better habitat for the wild lands we love, groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have been vilifying the language of hunting, giving names to beasts, working hard to give a human voice and human rights to deer, antelope and bears. They have convinced segments of society that “survival of the fittest” no longer exists in the wild. Rhetorically, they’ve begun to turn the order of life upside down. Make no mistake, all forms of hunting are in their crosshairs—it is not just lions, elephants and bears; it is pheasants and ducks, deer, elk and turkey … everything.
Make no mistake, all forms of hunting are in their crosshairs—it is not just lions, elephants and bears; it is pheasants and ducks, deer, elk and turkey … everything.
We can no longer afford to spend the majority of our time focusing on our individual corners of the hunting community. We’re all doing great work, but we’re spending too much time focused on the “trees.” Meanwhile groups like PETA, HSUS and plenty more are focused on eliminating the entire “forest.” They’re united, taking us on with well-coordinated and well-funded campaigns with a message that all hunting is evil and corrupt.
This battle will be won or lost on emotion, played out in the court of public opinion. Right now, we’ve lost ground in this battle because we’re not even in the courtroom. While we passionately debate positions on hunting practices amongst ourselves, the anti-hunting community closes in on eliminating our lifestyle.
Now is the time for us to come together as one community of hunters. We all need to exchange ideas and find common ground on messaging, strategy and tactics. We must work as peers, utilizing our individual organizations’ strengths and circles of influence to present ourselves to society in a positive manner.
But most importantly, we must all be on the same page, and move forward with solidarity.
Why is this important to an NRA member? There is an old saying: A right not exercised is a right that ceases to exist. Hunting is a primary way many Americans use their firearms. It is our Second Amendment right to own firearms that guarantees our freedom to hunt. Unlike any other nation in the world, we have this freedom because our Second Amendment right guarantees the personal ownership and use of firearms. Every freedom-loving gun owner needs to become a voice for the American hunter.
As Ronald Reagan famously encouraged, “There is no limit to the amount of good you [we] can do if we don’t care who gets the credit.” Partnering with other organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Dallas Safari Club, Shikar, the Boone and Crockett Club and many more, the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum stands ready to serve as a unifying voice for the hunting community. Along with NRA’s American Hunter, the NRA HLF promotes the active, adventure-filled lifestyle of hunting and, most critically, defends our freedom to hunt. Educate yourself with great resources found at nratv.com and nrahunting.com.
NRA First Vice President Richard Childress and I will travel the country over the next year to speak to various pro-hunting organizations, to galvanize support for our cause. I look forward to encouraging everyone to visit our websites and become informed on these issues.
It is increasingly critical for individuals, leaders and organizations in the hunting community to come together on this issue. All of us together present a very powerful voice for the hunting community. Every freedom-loving gun owner needs to become a voice for the American hunter.