Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hunting Is Conservation, Even at 37,000 Feet

I recently boarded my Seattle-to-Missoula connection from an out-of-state work trip and settled in for the 80-minute flight back home. Moments later a woman from California, on her way to Montana for the first time to meet her husband for some relaxation, sat next to me. We struck up a casual conversation about flying, the weather, family, pets, hobbies and careers. It was refreshing, especially in this day and age when so many of us shut out the world by plugging in our earphones and focusing on electronic devices.

She asked if Montana was my home and what I knew about her final destination. She also asked what business took me away from home. I told her I worked for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and was returning from Elk Camp, our national convention. 

“That sounds like something my husband would be interested in. He really likes to hunt and so does my dad,” she said.

She asked me if I liked to hunt and, if so, why I did. I responded that I enjoy hiking mountain ridges, watching the sun rise, spending quality time with my son and friends, breathing fresh air, witnessing all forms of wildlife—from the big game I sought to the songbirds, squirrels, small game and other marvels that nature has to offer. I told her how spending time in the outdoors offers a sense of peace and a stronger connection to the landscape. 

“Does it bother you to kill an animal?” she inquired.

“Well, it’s not something I take pleasure in but I do so to fill the freezer,” I responded. “The only beef of any kind we bought over the last decade or so were pre-formed hamburger patties for the barbecue.”

She asked about the butchering process. I said I did not send the meat to a butcher but that I choose to do that myself. I went on to explain that we use deer and elk meat for stew, jerky, roasts, taco salad and wide variety of other dishes. 

When I asked if she had any interest in hunting, she said she did not but was fine with those who chose to do so.

At that point I pulled out the latest copy of Bugle magazine. (I like to give away my personal copy when I travel.) Being an animal lover she marveled at the beauty of the bull elk on the cover and then, as she saw the Hunting Is Conservation logo in the lower corner said, “Hunting is conservation? I’ve never thought of that before.” 

Then, somewhat ironically, she went on to do the educating.

“Hunters appreciate being out in nature more than a lot of us who don’t make it out there as often—at least in the backcountry anyway. They care for animals and the land they live on,” she stated as her personal light bulb was now fully illuminated. “Yeah, I can see how hunting is conservation.”

As we chatted a bit more I explained how there’s an 11 percent tax on the guns, ammunition, bows and arrows that each hunter purchases, and more than $7 billion raised from that self-imposed excise tax first instituted in 1937 is funneled directly toward land and wildlife conservation. We talked about how the fees for hunting licenses go directly to state fish and game agencies to help manage wildlife, and how hunters donate more than $440 million per year to organizations like RMEF which apply those funds toward conservation projects.

As the wheels touched down on Mother Earth and our flight came to an end, we wished each other the best as we went our separate ways. I was grateful for an opportunity to share some heartfelt feelings about hunting and the direct ties it has to conserving our wild places.

Mark Holyoak
RMEF Director of Communication

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