KEVIN TATE: Responsibility demands dealing with elephant in room

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

If, as hunters, we ever lose the Second Amendment’s protection and the abiding good will of the non-hunting public, the lion’s share of the infamy will go not to the misguided work of anti-hunters and not to the pandering and posturing of anti-firearm politicians. It will go instead to the abject, impenetrable stupidity of those who do things like shoot highway signs or dump deer carcasses alongside the road, who shoot great blue herons while duck hunting, and who shoot circus elephants in parking lots.
We can hope the recent elephant shooting, now last week’s national news and further lampoon fodder for those who mock our state, was not the work of anyone who’d consider themselves an outdoorsman but, be that as it may, we owe it to our traditions to see game laws enforced.
Skimming over the statistics, it’s generally accepted that roughly 38 million Americans hunt or fish. Most surveys indicate roughly an equal or smaller number strongly oppose hunting and fishing, which leaves three quarters of the nation in the middle. When we tolerate the breaking of game laws, when we put up with those who dispose of waste parts of animals improperly, when we know of illegal behavior and practices on the part of our fellow outdoorsmen but do nothing, we’re helping our side lose. At some point, there will be clear votes taken in our nation on the future of hunting, if not in straight-forward referendums then in the guise of the representatives we elect. For those who do not oppose hunting or fishing but who do not take part themselves, the journey from tolerance to intolerance is not necessarily long.
As hunters, we often rush to align ourselves with cliques, the better to squabble amongst ourselves. There’s no reason not to have and voice strong opinions, if you so choose, about whether to allow the running of deer with dogs on public land or whether to allow the use of crossbows during archery-only seasons. Spirited debate is a key component of our freedom. It’s critical, though, that we show the same spirit in policing our own ranks, assisting law enforcement whenever possible. If we don’t apply the same vigor to protecting our heritage from the misdeeds of those among us that we show when our own favored areas of the outdoors are up for debate, all the game and fish arguments in the world will be for naught.
Anyone who is not a committed vegetarian can be persuaded, in most cases, by pro-hunting arguments properly presented, but, as in any other case, actions speak louder than words. It’s important we make sure our own actions set good examples, and our words call out those who do otherwise.
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.