Future of Outdoor Sports
By Tom Lester
Have you seen the infomercials on television about countries that have lost their right to own firearms? This is a prime example of what can happen when folks sit back and don't work to protect their rights. Ok, so you hunt or own guns, but what about fishing? Is there a risk of loosing some of our rights to fish or trap?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. There are some people, and the number is growing, that would like to see all hunting and fishing activities stopped in our country. Sound absurd? Believe me, it is a reality. So if you enjoy hunting and/or fishing, pay close attention.
While teaching Agricultrial Science in Springtown, Texas I came across a news article about animal rights activists in the U.S. while preparing a lesson for my Wildlife Management class. Although there are several groups, the largest, by far, is PETA (people for the ethical treatment of animals). They have literally thousands of members, publish a periodical and have raised a tremendous amount of money to support their cause. They also struck me as the most radical of the animal rights groups.
Please don't get me wrong, I support treating animals ethically and humanely. I do not condone cruelty to animals without just cause. For example, humans have tested a wide array of medical treatments, medicines and other helpful products on animals prior to testing them on humans. This is somewhat of a necessary evil if we wish to continue curing diseases and improving our way of life.
Our adversaries in the animal rights groups would not agree. In fact, small minorities of them have gone to great extremes to get their point across. They have even destroyed several research facilities that do animal research to illustrate their fortitude.
Hunting and fishing in America is a way of life. I like to think that most of us harvest game in as humane a way as possible. In certain areas of the country, where the majority of hunting is done on public land, the animal rights activists have held marches through the woods where hunters were hunting so they could scare off the animals being sought. Two years ago while fishing at Beaver Lake in Arkansas, one group held a protest at the weigh in site of a professional bass fishing tournament. I guess they didn't know that all of the fish weighed in were required to be released. In fact, professional bass fishing tournaments is where the concept of catch and release originated in order to preserve our resources.
Ok, let's say we can't hunt deer in Texas any longer. At least we will still have them to look at, right? Consider this: There are over 10 million deer in Texas. Hunters in Texas harvest around 500,000 deer each year. If the animal rights folks got their way and deer hunting was discontinued, a large majority of the deer in our state would die a slow, miserable death. They would starve.
Man has become a viable part of the checks and balance system of the deer's ecosystem. By not harvesting the half million deer that we currently harvest annually, they would run out of food. Sound like hype? It's not.
In early 1900, around Kaibab Plateau in Arizona, a mule deer herd grew to 4000 head. Hunting these deer became illegal. In 24 years the herd grew to 100,000. They ate everything in site. During the winters of 1924 and 1925, over 50,000 of the mule deer died, due to starvation. It taught wildlife conservationist an important lesson. Man is an instrumental part of the ecosystem of our wildlife. Taking him out of the conservation picture would have devastating effects to all of our wildlife and fish.
In terms of dollars and cents, fishing is the largest leisure sport in America. We spend billions of dollars each year enjoying our sport. Imagine what would happen to our economy if we took fishing out of the picture. Lake towns across the country would dry up and blow away. Millions of Americans would be out of work.
Sound a bit far-fetched; ask our neighbors across the Atlantic Ocean or in Australia how far-fetched it sounded when people in their countries wanted to take away their guns. Ask them now, now that they are not allowed to bear arms, for any reason.
Animal rights groups in this country are big and getting bigger. Their combined fiscal budgets are in excess of $140 million annually. Each year their memberships grow. They even have numerous leather shoe and belt wearing celebrities supporting them. With each passing year they gain strength, support and more money.
If you enjoy the outdoors, hunt or fish, it is up to you to be on your toes and do your part to preserve our rights and heritage. On the positive side, our animal rights groups have made us more aware of our responsibilities as outdoorsmen and women. We need to take time to do our part and do it responsibly. Pass on good habits and responsible habits to our youth since they are our future and the future of our outdoor sports.
I plan on doing this exact thing. My daughter Megan, 12, wants to harvest her first deer. My 6-year-old, Tatum, is ready to learn basic firearm safety and handling with her BB gun that Santa brought her. I am looking forward to passing on these family traditions and the responsibilities that goes with them. I plan on doing my part to ensure my daughters that they will have the same opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors I have enjoyed. I hope you will do the same.
Until next time, enjoy the outdoors.