Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why I'm Starting this Blog

I'm an avid hunter and angler with progressive politics who is deeply concerned about the decline of hunting and the signs that fishing is on a downward trend as well. Lately I've read lots of analysis on what it will take to counter these trends, and it won't be easy. Powerful economic, social, and demographic forces are working against the future of hunting especially. As a progressive outdoorsman, I've long felt that the insular, sometimes highly conservative politics projected by numerous hunting publications, businesses, and organizations, and of course the NRA, as well the mainstream media's embrace and sometimes caricature of that projection left out a significant base of hunters - progressives. There are many good conservationist hunting organizations, I'm a member of a couple, but due to corporate funding and a diverse membership, or a "niche" focus, they have to be too cautious in their broader politics. After getting more involved in efforts to fight for hunting interests politically, as well as helping others take up the tradition, it has also become clear to me that the insular and/or conservative politics not only don't speak for many of us, they are also the enemy of the future of hunting. It is not that we shouldn't be concerned about the animal rights movement, or certain segments of the population, often liberal-leaning, that disparage hunting as an activity. We should be unapolegetic in our advocacy that hunting is a positive activity in so may ways. Hunting is an excellent means for families to spend quality time together away from the distractions and hyper-competitiveness of modern society. Hunting builds a political base for conservation efforts, probably the greatest example of this was the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, who protected 320 million acres of forests and prairies from development. His action was primarily motivated by his love of hunting in wild places. Even conservative hunters will put money and time on the line, even going so far as to raise their own taxes, however reluctantly, to pay for conservation projects that benefit hunting, other outdoor activities, and the environment as a whole. These projects often are an important source of support for rural communities. Hunting is especially beneficial for kids, as it teaches them patience, observation, safety skills, self-reliance, and how to not be physically comfortable and still enjoy oneself. It teaches them to appreciate and understand the natural world and the inter-connectedness of all life.

Hunting has health benefits as well, especially done with little or no motorized assistance. Wild animals are a healthy source of lean, organic protein.

Having said all that, what research exists shows the Ameican people overall need little or no convincing. The American public overwhelmingly, in general, still supports hunting. However, even with that support, fewer of us are heading into the woods or onto the waters to hunt or fish. The decline is driven by urbanization, lack of access to places to hunt, lack of time, and competition from other activities, especially amongst youth. Most hunters take up hunting as youths. Our media-drenched and commercialized culture that teaches quick gratification and a need to be stimulated all the time are clearly working against hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities.

All of these problems are either created or made more difficult to counter by insular, conservative politics in our ranks. We need access to quality habitat for hunting, such places cost money for the government to buy or get easements for, as well as manage and/or restore. However, the fundamental core of conservative politics in 2010 is hatred for collective action and solutions to problems, in particluar, hatred for government and taxation. On this fundamental level, conservatism is anti-hunting. Urban sprawl is also lengthening the time it takes for many of us to get to places to hunt. Controlling urban sprawl through planning and public transportation draws the delusional cries of socialism or communism from the tea-party base. Yet any slowdown in urban sprawl would help preserve places to hunt and fish. These are more obvious examples of conservatism's anti-hunting policies. Research I've read by rural sociologists and a consultant to wildlife agencies also conclude that hunting is a not an activity that just happens, it is a tradition that needs a social support structure to be continued and passed on. Present American conservatism is almost sociopathically individualistic, rejecting the idea of social support structures. Such an ideology being influential within our ranks makes it hard for us as a hunting community to forge alliances with other groups that ultimately have a common interest with us. This goes beyond forging alliances with non-hunting and angling environmentalists. There is a history of such alliances, we have a recent successful example here in Minnesota with the Legacy Amendment. We need to go beyond that and be reaching out to advocates for quality family time, youth advocates, educators, and nutrition/wellness advocates. There is already an encouraging effort of reaching out to slow food advocates and bringing them into hunting. Jackson Landers, who lives in Virginia, runs a blog called "The Locavore Hunter", and is soon coming out with a book called "Deer Hunting for Locavores".

As odd it as it may sound at first blush, we also need to be reaching out to some gun control advocates who may be willing to support firearms safety education being offered in public schools, access to affordable and accessible shooting ranges, and affirm the mainstream shooting sports as positive activities in exchange for hunters' support for stricter gun regulations. The NRA's outsized influence within hunting publications, businesses, and organizations make such a "grand bargain" on gun politics difficult or impossible to achieve - even though fundamentally necessary for the future of hunting. While the NRA continues to win political victories, fewer Americans are engaging in recreational shooting, be it for the purpose of hunting or the enjoyment of mastering the skill of handling firearms.

It's not that you'll never read a hunting, angling, or other outdoor adventure story here. My main interests are hunting for members of the deer family, normally whitetails, with bow, rifle, and muzzleloader. I have participated in one wilderness moose hunt, one of the great experiences of my life. I now have a special affection for wilderness hunting based on that experience, and am working on a wilderness elk hunt for next year. I love fly-fishing for trout, but of course pursue other species with spinning gear. I also have spent many hours in the marshes pursuing waterfowl, and walked the woods with a shotgun pursuing grouse. However, the main focus here is giving voice to progressive sportsmen and women and applying our thinking to preserving and advancing hunting and angling. I hope to bring in various sources and voices from here in Minnesota, but also from "far afield", even from outside the United States.


  1. Great Blog concept and take, looking forward to reading more. Thanks

  2. Thanks, Pete ! I try to blog as much as I can, but I've been busy preparing for a hunting class I'm teaching at seward co-op in late February.

  3. Thank you for starting this blog. I grew up with hunting and fishing, but didn't not really pay attention to the decline in participation rate until I went to Finland and compared the differences between North America and Nordic countries.

    It saddens me much of the neoliberal policies over the last three decades is finally rearing its ugly head which are counterproductive to hunters and non-hunters equally.

    I look forward to reading more.