An Open Letter to the Anti-Hunter, Makes us ALL THINK

  • Animal Lives Matter, All Animals
  • Are We Divided?
  • 13 Million Americans Hunt, What Are They Thinking? 

If you don’t approve of hunting, for whatever reason, I want you to know I appreciate you taking a minute to read this letter. My intention is to offer a couple facts about hunting you may not know. I don’t expect to change your mind altogether, but I do hope to provide some information that may create a more informed conversation.

You’re right. Our civilization has changed such that many people no longer need to directly participate in the food chain. Cities of us can go to grocery stores for the food we once grew or killed for ourselves. So, why then does hunting still matter?

You’re right. All living things have value. Animal lives matter, and that’s all animals, not just the one whose hair is stuck to your shirt right now. If that’s true, how can someone argue killing an animal is not only justified but important?

The on-going debate surrounding the value and ethics of hunting litters our news feeds and newspapers, often serving to divide those that hunt from those that don’t. I hunt. If that divides me from you, we need to talk, because it’s possible the very reason you oppose hunting may be among the most important reasons to support hunting.

The biosystems of our planet are under attack, and humans are largely to blame. Earth is experiencing record high average temperatures each year, and humans are devastating natural habitat on all continents at record pace. So, what are the facts about hunting? If they were better understood, could all people who love animals, and all people who care about the health of our planet find common ground?

Annually, over 13 million people hunt, nearly 40 million people fish, and more than 40 million people target shoot. The only emotion-based fact I’ll present in this letter is the following: hunting is a way of life for a lot of people. Most are ethical, well-meaning people. Some are not, just like any other cross-section of humanity. I started with this, because we’re already at an impasse if we can’t agree here. I’m an example of a hunter, so I’ll speak for myself. Many of my most cherished memories are times when I’ve been hunting. Hunting and fishing are a part of who I am, part of the way I look at the world, and part of my value system. Hunting doesn’t define me, no more than does being a Bernie Sanders voter, or homosexual, or Muslim define someone else. But hunting is absolutely part of my identity. There is literally nothing anyone can say to make me change that. Can we agree hunting is important to lots of people like me?

Okay, enough of the feely stuff.

Wildlife and wild lands are owned by the public, as prescribed by the Public Trust Doctrine. Each state has a fish and wildlife agency, which was given the responsibility to manage all wildlife via what’s called the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Where success is measured by the proliferation of wild animals, this model of wildlife management is among the most effective in the history of mankind. See, we humans are a highly invasive species. Every day we till up wildlife habitat to grow more food, to build more infrastructure, and to meld the natural world to fit our every whim. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is one of the only proven barriers standing between wild places and animals and their decimation. And its implementation is not cheap.

Nearly every economic, social, and cultural trend is eating away at the prospect of wild animals thriving into the future. Except, perhaps ironically, hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. You’ve probably heard the argument, “hunters pay for conservation.” The extent to which this statement is true can be debated, but it is a fact that hunting plays a major role in conservation. Between 50-80% of all money spent on conservation in the United States, nearly three billion dollars, comes through one of three sources (in order of size): hunting/fishing license sales; excise taxes paid on hunting/fishing/recreational shooting gear; and donations to conservation non-profits. Hunting and fishing license sales are a pretty well understood concept. However, most people don’t know that sportsmen of generations past lobbied for and passed Pittman-Robertson (PR), the act that placed a tax on hunting and recreational shooting gear, then later Dingell-Johnson (DJ), the act that placed a tax on fishing gear. The funds from all three sources; licenses, donations, and excise taxes are used by your state fish and wildlife agency, as well as a myriad of non-government organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited, to do the work of managing wild places for wild animals.

Without PR/DJ, sustainability of our wild lands and wild things would face serious headwinds. One must have only a rudimentary understanding of economics to understand why. If left without protection and management, wild places would soon turn into farms, ranches, and housing developments. To fund that protection, some wild animals were given a “value,” quantified by the license fee paid to hunt or catch them. No true sportsman or woman would argue the value of a living thing can be quantified in dollars; it’s simply the only scalable way anyone on earth has come up with to ensure the necessary habitat exists to sustain all species. It’s a trade-off – kill some of the deer to make it economically viable to keep and manage the land on which all deer and most all other species live.

But, couldn’t we get conservation funding into the budgets of all levels of government; local, state, and federal?

The answer is probably yes, but the economics again tell a dooming story. Public lands, such as state recreation areas or national forests, are largely viewed as a sink on the tax base, especially in more developed or more agrarian areas of our country. No one pays property taxes on this land, and it’s more difficult to tie tax revenue back to it from tourism or other uses than it is to tax income from corn production on the same parcel. Thus, privatizing land for development or production is a strategy governmental entities use to increase their tax base. If you were a politician and your constituents were asking you to choose between health care for babies or keeping our public land public, what would you do? The debate over control of our public lands is a shining example of what will happen to our wild places when it’s time to sharpen the budget pencil.

Some of the favorite non-profit organizations of anti-hunters have taken to buying land. An example is the Humane Society of the United States’ Wildlife Land Trust. The novice biologist in me says, “Great, more land for wild things.” But any wildlife biologist, for or against hunting, will tell you leaving land unmanaged is an untenable solution. Sure, it’s cheaper for the Wildlife Land Trust, but unmanaged land does little or nothing for wildlife. Nature used to do the management work for us. For thousands of years prairie habitat burned, invigorating successional habitat growth. Ignited by lightning, forest fires would burn until they simply went out. Today, firefighters feverishly dowse wildfires with chemicals and water in hopes of saving human life and assets. Ever been on a hike through a dense forest? Did you notice how animal diversity was most prolific outside of the most dense areas – perhaps where the forest opened up to a grassy area? Most woodland species are not adapted to compete in the most dense, unbroken forest cover. Just as most prairie species are not adapted to compete in the most dense, unbroken grassland areas.

The way I see it, it’s perfectly reasonable that you do not hunt.

But, I want you to understand hunting plays a very serious role in the real-world conservation that sustains nearly all species of plant and animal on Earth.  All people are in a lifelong dogfight to preserve the living things that inhabit our planet, especially you and me… since I took the time to write this letter and you took the time to read it.  The left and right, the greenies and oil barons, the anti and pro-hunters – we’re all bound to this watery rock and can only take from it so much before we endanger the wild animals and places in our way. Let’s stop arguing and get to work.

Sincerely,

Eric Dinger, Founder of Powderhook

About Powderhook: Powderhook is the outdoor help desk. With free maps and depth contours, thousands of events, plus the local scoop you can’t get anywhere else, a good day in the outdoors is only a download away no matter your experience level.  http://blog.powderhook.com/an-open-letter-to-hunters/.

 

 

New Deer Tracker Mobile App is Effective and Free

deertracker

In the interest of helping every hunter learn more about their hunting area, QDMA and Powderhook a new free App called “Deer Tracker that allows hunters to monitor deer activity and harvests in their neck of the woods and across the country.  QDMA and Powderhook hope to use the data generated as part of a long-term research project aiming to improve the deer hunting experience for new hunters and experts alike.

Highlighted features of the app include a heat map optimized for daytime deer movement. Brian Murphy, CEO of QDMA says, “It’s set up that way for an important reason. “While hunting the rut gets the most attention, research confirms that the peak of the rut often is not the best time to harvest a deer,” said Murphy.  “There are plenty of windows before and after the rut that can be good times to see deer moving.  Thus, we set up our heat map to indicate the likelihood of a hunter seeing a mature deer during shooting light.”

Other features include observation and harvest reports, though the app makes it impossible to pinpoint the exact location of a single report, allowing the hunter to keep his secret spot secret.  Powderhook CEO Eric Dinger said, “Deer hunters will appreciate the ability to contribute to the overall improvement of deer hunting while not having to give up any of their personal information.”

“As a deer hunter, the last thing I want to do is give someone the specific location of where I’m hunting. So, we don’t use pins, and our heat map blurs the user’s location by anywhere from 10 to 30 miles,” said Dinger.

Deer Tracker is a free app, thanks to partnership support from Cabela’s, Hunting Lease Network, SITKA Gear, and Bushnell.  According to Dinger, “Each partner played an important role by contributing to the design of the app.  Deer Tracker contains several hundred reporters we call Insiders and these individuals are field employees and pro staff members of our partner brands.”

Dinger adds, “Their feedback and on-going participation in the app helped us get to where we are today, and Insiders will continue to add insightful reports people can rely on.  Users of the app will notice the logo of the Insider’s affiliated company on the reports that these individuals generate.”

While the app is free, users are able to upgrade the app for $2.99 to include Powderhook’s database for over 500,000 public hunting grounds.

“Hunters play the biggest role in conservation efforts across this country through purchasing licenses, firearms and ammunition,” said Lindsay Thomas Jr., QDMA Director of Communications. “These days, a hunter may only have limited time to prepare for and plan a hunt. We want to ensure they have the greatest opportunity for an enjoyable time in the woods, so they continue to carry on our hunting heritage.”

Deer Tracker is available for download through the Google Play and Apple App stores and can be accessed without the app via www.deertrackerapp.com on desktop devices.

About the author: Eric Dinger is the co-founder and CEO of Powderhook.com, an app built to help people hunt and fish more often.  He can be reached at eric@powderhook.com.  Powderhook’s mission is Access for All. That means access for new hunters, anglers and shooters; for parents and their children; for neighbors who haven’t been out in the field for years; and for you. Powderhook works with the nation’s leading conservation organizations, retailers and manufacturers. The Powderhook platform is bringing our industry together to solve some of its most important problems.  Powderhook is about outdoor recruitment, retention, reactivation and access, from the creators of Powderhook.com

I Love You Enough to Teach You to Fish

loveofthesport

According to the experts at World Bank, the planet needs to produce 50% more food than we do today in order to feed the 9 billion people who’ll live here by 2050.

How can that possibly happen? Increases in efficiency are part of the answer.  Lower food quality and artificial dietary supplements are, too.  But the only real answer is our planet needs to build more farms, ranches and orchards.

Where will that happen? Drive out in the country sometime, or imagine for a minute your last trip.  Do you see places where there could be farms, but instead native grasses or trees are growing?  Now envision a similar dynamic in every country on every continent.  Picture a growing quantity of agriculture and a declining quantity of truly wild places.  In order to build a new farm, is there any option but to plow up a wild place?

See, hunting and fishing are about so much more than an angry tweet over the life of a lion.  Hunting and fishing play a very serious role in the real-world conservation that sustains nearly all species of plant and animal on Earth.  All people are in a lifelong dogfight to preserve all of creation – the left and right, the greenies and oil barons, the anti and pro-hunters – we’re all bound to this watery rock and can only take from it so much before we endanger the plants and animals in our way.

If you don’t hunt or fish because you love animals or don’t want to see them killed, you are holding on to an ideal that is some parts fantasy and all parts unsustainable. Something will die today so that you can live.  Whether you kill it or someone else does it for you, it must die for you to live.

When we plow up native grass to plant corn, when we cut down trees to build strip malls, we are removing the only home a wild animal has.  And, once it’s gone, we’ll almost never get it back.  When a person buys a fishing license, a hunting license, or pays a premium for the life of a living thing via some exotic hunt, they are actively preserving the wild places that sustain the animals we all love. Humans have developed no other model that works at scale.  If you love animals you must support direct participation in the food chain via hunting or fishing, or you must take responsibility for your role as the surrogate killer, the politically correct accomplice in the true crime against wild animals and places.

 About the author: 

Eric Dinger is the co-founder and CEO of Powderhook.com, a website built to help people find access to hunting and fishing spots, trips, groups and events. He can be reached at eric@powderhook.com. 

 

America Needs More Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts

My wife, Stephanie, and I just spent the weekend Christmas shopping in Chicago. Our annual trip through the aisles of Michigan Avenue and State Street is a fun change of pace from the streak of hunting and fishing trips that usually dot my calendar throughout the year. While in many ways I would consider Chicago a great American city, my perception of our third largest city took a few body punches on this trip. In my opinion, Chicago is suffering.

We saw marches, boisterous demonstrations from disenfranchised youth, leagues of tired, stressed-out workers, and in general, observed a city of people with their bolts over-tightened. Hundreds and hundreds of police officers, visible in the accompanying photo, lined the streets in an effort to maintain civility. Life is complicated everywhere, but have we stooped so low that we’re willing to accept this as “normal” in one of our greatest cities?

Our work at Powderhook is about getting people into the outdoors. Fundamentally, we believe a connection to the natural world helps people gain a sense of place and perspective, and helps them learn to value the world around them. Certainly the outdoors can be one vehicle for exposing people to a value system, but in a place like Chicago it is flat difficult to access those experiences. The war on traditional values is alive and well.

Boy ScoutsAccording to Census Data, nearly 2/5 children in America is growing up in a single-parent household. Of the remaining 3/5 of American kids, two-thirds are members of dual-income families, leaving Moms and Dads of any household less and less time to lead a family. Only 17% of Americans attend religious services each week, the lowest number ever recorded, eroding the value systems taught by our faith-based institutions. As our melting pot urbanizes, gains weight and hustles to make a living, must we accept that our values are changing? Or, is there something we can do to preserve the important things as the superfluous tides roll in and out?

Chicago, and all of America, needs more Boy Scouts. Along with groups like Girl Scouts, 4-H, FFA, FCCLA, and others, these organizations exist to teach fundamental values that can be tough to find in other places. They seemed really tough to find last weekend in Chicago.

Read this excerpt from the Boy Scouts website:

The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.

For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.

To me, this sounds the America we once knew and wish to see once again. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.” I think he’s right. Time to go get my kids signed-up.

 

About the author: Eric Dinger is the co-founder and CEO of Powderhook.com, an app built to help people hunt and fish more often. He can be reached at eric@powderhook.com.

Want to Change a Generation? Feed Your Kids Fish They Catch

Eric Dinger is co-founder and CEO of Powderhook.com a website built to help people find access to hunting and fishing spots, trips and events. I originally met Eric thru a mutual friend Kristine Houtman, an outdoor lady and talented writer from Minnesota. Eric is a visionary moving forward with the understanding of how learning to fish and hunt and hike the trails can be a most positive influence in ones life. And today introducing youth to the values and lessons learned in the outdoors are more important then ever. Thanks Eric for sharing your article that was originally published on the Powderhook blog.


PowderhookIn his timeless 1949 classic, A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold famously wrote, “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” I recently came across a video that highlights a very real fear I have for my kids – the danger Leopold prophesied over 65 years ago.

My teenage daughter is a pretty normal 15 year-old kid. At any moment she’s a monster cookie of sweet and salty, wit and sarcasm, delightfulness and delinquency. Monster cookies are wonderful, if not unpredictable. But, this cookie comes with one constant: her phone. My goodness she loves her phone. It’s more than a communication device; it’s her hobby, her companion and her lifeline to the minute-by-minute updates she holds so dear.

Generational differences aside, her compulsion for omni-connectedness worries me. Perhaps ironically, it’s my perception of her lack of connection to the tangible world around her that scares me. Much of how we perceive the world comes to us through the conditioning and learning we experience when we’re young. For people like me, those lessens were earned outside. My daughter and many of her friends, normal small town kids, largely view the outdoors as the mundane gap between their indoors – the stuff you drive through on the way to your hockey game. When I rode long distances as a kid, I would count the duck species I saw or try to figure out how many minutes it would take us to get to the next exit. Now, we flip on a movie and ride quietly as our kids stare blankly at one device or another. Gone are the hours of unstructured play, the exploration and outdoor discovery that defined my childhood, in favor of new forms of the same with names like Netflix, Spotify and Instagram. Telling your teenager to go outside and play has become the equivalent of saying “go use your phone where I can’t see you.”

My desire isn’t that my kids grow up to be like me, but rather that they explore, think critically and problem solve. Can these foundations be learned via a screen? My daughter consumes almost every form of content she values via her phone. She need not be curious about the world around her because Google has answers. (with pictures!) Exploration looks a lot like Wikipedia. She knows beef comes from cows, because that’s easy to read on Gawker. But, does she value the farm… the farmer… the cow itself? She’ll cry foul at the site of a feedlot, a judicious member of her outrage culture, but will she care enough to try to understand the complexity of raising enough beef to feed our developing world at a price point they can afford?

In my brief time as a parent I’ve come across only one antidote. Feed your kids fish they catch. The whole process is importantly unscreened. It’s tough to fish with a phone in your hand. Still more difficult to avoid the beauty of a sunset from a quiet boat, the enormity and fragility of nature on full display. (Enter phone for #sunset pic.) Neither Instagram nor Google will tell you how to catch those pesky late-July walleye. After all, if you’re gonna be there you may as well catch a fish! Maybe a parent’s experience with #walleyeprobs can be the start of a richer conversation.

That something must die so you can live is a fundamental of our existence, yet ditching the supply chain in favor of active participation in the food chain can be an emotional experience. It’s complicated to watch a living thing make its way to your plate. The entire lake-to-table experience encapsulates Leopold’s wish for us – that we pay attention to the places and living things around us, and that we are thoughtful about our role as apex omnivores in a fragile ecosystem. As I strive to raise curious, critical-thinking problem solvers, the time we spend fishing has become the one screen through which I’m confident I can connect.

I believe deeper relationships with the world around us are key to the changes we hope to see in every generation. Whether you garden, fish, hunt or forage, take the time to include your kids and maybe you’ll both find that connection.