“Sport” Hunting And Conservation – Yeah, That Old Saw

March 23, 2016

This piece from the UK Independent has been bouncing around for a week or two now.  It’s not really news, nor is it particularly revolutionary thinking.  But then, since it references statements from Prince William, it carries a certain panache that it would probably lack if it came from some bourgeois layman like… say… me.

That’s a hell of a long way around to the point.

Oh, and that point…  African trophy hunting, despite social media outrage, provides significant benefits to conservation.  Stepping around the sensational stories of “Cecil” and endangered white rhino hunts, the fact remains that properly regulated and managed sport hunting more than pays for the animals it removes from the habitat.

Did we really need to hear that from the second-in-line for the crown of Great Britain?

It’s hardly news.  Hell, every time trophy hunting comes up on the Interwebz or in the major media, a swarm of folks from SCI to wildlife management experts chime in with the numbers and statistics that show how important the revenue from hunters funds everything from habitat protection to anti-poaching patrols.  But when all is said and done, public opinion generally sides against the bloodshed… against logic.

It’s an interesting conundrum, but I’m not sure it needs to be so enigmatic.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s pretty simple.  People who don’t hunt really don’t understand those of us who kill animals for “fun”.

To be sure, there are things they grudgingly accept, such as when some of us claim to hunt for food.  There are also things they reject, such as the notion of hunting animals merely to collect the trophies (antlers, horns, mounts, etc.).  And, nowhere more than in the case of African hunting, do hunters appear to be out for nothing more than the experience of killing exotic (insert other adjectives here, such as majestic, regal, proud, etc.) animals in order to bring home the trophies.  That will never sit well with non-hunters.  Truthfully, it even makes many hunters uneasy.

Here’s where this dovetails into another perennial debate (discussion, argument, donnybrook).  Hunting ethics and “fair chase” have become hugely divisive topics in the hunting community.  While many of these differences have existed all along, social media has created a platform where individuals can criticize without the direct accountability of face-to-face communication.  In this virtual environment, it is becoming more common to see people embrace unrealistically idealistic stances on ethical behavior, and then to hold others to that same standard.

At the same time, the Internet, along with the rapidly growing outdoors television industry, have exposed hunters to practices and traditions they have never experienced and do not understand or appreciate.  For example, western hunters accustomed to hunting large expanses of public land see the east coast treestand hunters, sitting over feeders, bait, or food plots.  It’s a very different set of tactics, and on first glance, may not seem like a very rewarding way to hunt.   In fact, it may even seem to be “unfair”.  Rather than embrace the differences or educate themselves, many folks choose to judge and denigrate the others.  The most common justification for the criticism is that the behavior, “makes hunters look bad.”

These issues come together when we see something like the recent fiasco with “Cecil” the lion, or the auction of a hunt for an endangered species.  Emotional and uneducated responses flood both the traditional and non-traditional media.  While it’s no surprise that anti-hunters and non-hunters would jump on that bandwagon, I’m a little nonplussed to see the number of hunters who rush to judgement as well.  To be clear, the circumstances surrounding the killing of “Cecil” are suspect, and it appears that laws were broken.  No one, hunter or otherwise, should condone that.  But over and above that, the outright indictment of African hunting is not justifiable, and I was a little ashamed to see the number of hunters who were right there with the antis, calling for abolition without a clear understanding of what it is that they want to abolish… or of the real effects that shutting down the industry would have.

I realize as I’m writing this, that I may have bitten off more than I can necessarily chew in one meal.  Because here comes another tangent…

I can’t help thinking, as I watch things like this unfold… the ongoing posturing of, “my ethics are better than your ethics,” or, “my way of hunting is right and yours is wrong,” has a lot in common with this whole thing that seems to be taking place on college campuses (and in some communities), wherein the emotional security of the individual supposedly supersedes a free and open exchange of ideas and opinions.  At risk of over-simplifying a complex situation, what I see here is a whole new level of selfishness, regardless of the potential cost to the bigger picture.  “I am personally offended by something you are saying or doing, therefore, I am in my rights to tell you, and everyone like you, to stop.”

From the academic perspective, I think the logical progression of this argument is obvious.  At the very least, it throws a wet, burlap sack over much of history, art, and literature.  It’s tearing down Civil War monuments because they remind people of slavery.  It’s throwing away great works of literature because they include racist, sexist, or hateful themes and language.  It’s chipping the genitalia off of the statue of David because, well, genitalia.  Over time, if this were allowed to become the norm (I honestly doubt it), the scope and value of education would be so diluted as to be pretty much worthless.  Universities would become technical schools, and instead of scholars, graduates would be technicians.

For hunters, it’s sort of the same thing.  If we continue to ostracize other hunters and squelch their traditions based on nothing more substantial than that they offend our sensibilities, what can we say when non-hunters do the same to us?  And then, what happens when hunting goes away?  Maybe we can use what we know of Africa as a guide there.


Just A Quickie

March 10, 2016

I’ve been pretty busy and preoccupied of late, and updating the blog has simply not been at the top of my agenda. Apologies for that.  I’m taking a breather now, just to jot this note today (and to keep the blog feed alive).

I have made a mental effort to crank something out, here and there.  I just haven’t been able to get traction, potentially because I’ve been idle for so long that the backlogged ideas are totally overwhelming.  There’s a lot going on, from Missouri where there’s a proposal to ban sport hunting for feral hogs, to Minnesota’s proposed ban on lead shot in a wide swath of State-managed land.  Turkey season is just around the corner, my hunt for huntable hogs is ongoing (but not going far), and I’ve got some new boots to review.

Of course, there’s politics.  Talk about being overwhelmed!

But then, I tend to stray away from general political commentary for many reasons, not the least of which is the knowledge that I’m sorely under-qualified to make meaningful analysis of most of it. There’s a lot I don’t know about economics, foreign policy and diplomacy, and so many other things.  The big picture is far larger than my personal experience, and while I certainly may discuss ideas and opinions with certain individuals, I’m not sure they’re entirely informed.  When I do talk politics, I usually try to talk as much to get educated as I do to educate.

Sadly, an awful crowd of folks aren’t similarly constrained.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  Take that literally.  With a lot of knowledge, you can build the hydrogen bomb, but with a little knowledge, you can use it.


Hog Blog Gear Review – Firearms Guide Goes Online

March 2, 2016

It’s sort of become an unofficial, perennial tradition to review the latest version of the Firearms Guide, firearms reference (previous reviews are here, here, here, and here).  This began with my first meeting of Editor-in-Chief, Chris Mijic and his wife, Ksenia, back in 2010, at SHOT.  Every year since, I’ve come to look forward to seeing them in the Press Room at SHOT, and every year since, they’ve sent me the latest version of their excellent reference guide for review.

I’ve enjoyed watching the evolution from CD-ROM to DVD, as well as a constantly growing list of features and content.  For 2016, they’re finally taking the big step to a full, online offering.  The new Guide is subscription-based, and the new format will enable the team to update and make corrections constantly (the current plan is 26 updates per year… basically, an update every two weeks).  The possibilities this brings are as wide-open as the challenges Mijic and his team faced to make this huge platform change.

At its heart, the Firearms Guide is a searchable database of firearms, and even in the initial iteration, it was amazingly comprehensive.  I believe this, the sixth edition, includes something like 61,000 firearms.  This, alone, made the Guide an excellent resource for writers and gun aficionados.  In addition to listings and detailed descriptions of the guns, the list includes schematics and take-down instructions, which makes this a valuable reference guide for gunsmiths… both professional and amateur.

With each iteration, the Guide has added new features.  Some, like printable targets, are just cool little add-ons.  Some are useful functions, such as the guide for matching up U.S. calibers with European equivalents.  Others are real value-adds, such as the ability to compare firearms, features, and MSRP which makes the Guide a one-stop shop for folks interested in buying a new gun.

New, this year, they have added gun values (based off of the 100% – 30% condition ratings) to each listing. This makes the Guide even handier for folks looking to buy, sell, and trade used guns.  While resources have long been available where you could go get a gun value, most of them serve that single function.  The Firearms Guide has the benefit of offering all of the other features, along with gun values.  It’s something I think every gun shop and smith should have at their fingertips, and as I mentioned, it would be pretty useful for the amateur as well.

So, how’s it work?  Chris sent me a temporary subscription so that I could go in and get a feel for the system.  Honestly, it’s pretty good, but there is still room for some tweaks, particularly in the search functionality.  However, if you just want to look up a Stevens 311, or a Barrett M98, that’s pretty simple.  And once you find the gun (or guns) you’re looking for, getting the rest of the information is really easy.  All of that being said, the very nature of an online resource makes it ideal for tweaking and adjusting based on user feedback.

What about the subscriptions?

To allow for varying levels of need and expertise, there are multiple subscription levels from All Access ($49.95/yr) to Handguns Only ($19.95/yr) or only AR/AK platforms ($14.95/yr).   There’s even a monthly, recurring subscription of $5.99/mo.    The subscription options are all clearly laid out on the website.

It’s probably not the kind of thing every hunter needs to have laying around, but it’s an excellent resource if you find you need (or want) a deeper view of guns and ammo.  For the writer who writes about guns, either full-time or occasionally, it’s a really good research tool.  For the gunsmith, it’s a good way to stay up to speed on the guns that are out there, as well as to find the schematics for assembly/disassembly.  And for the gun shop owner, buying, selling, and trading guns… I think it would be as indispensable as the old “blue book”.  If any of this sounds like you, I’d suggest checking it out.