Wildlife and Hunting (Part 2)

Many reasons why hunting is so important, especially here in Iowa:

The return of the whitetail deer as a major game species in Iowa is a tribute to progressive management and good landowner attitude, research and enforcement programs. Responsibility for the future of deer in Iowa depends upon the cooperation of landowners and hunters, legislative support, preservation of critical timber habitat, and continued professional management of the resource.

Hunting aids management. Hunting is an important wildlife management tool because it keeps nature at a healthy balance of which the available habitat can support (carrying capacity). For many wildlife species, hunting also helps to maintain populations at levels compatible with human activity and land use. Wildlife is a renewable natural resource with a surplus and hunters harvest that surplus. This harvestable surplus is never exhausted. Hunting serves as an integral part of preserving native biodiversity.

Natural and humane.  Hunting natural and indeed just about every animal species—including humans—has been either predator or prey at some point in its evolution. Hunting is a ritual that allows a person to participate in the life and death cycles on which all natural systems depend. Free ranging wildlife species potentially face horrible scenarios that can lead to death or severe disability such as starvation and disease due to overcrowding, extreme weather episodes, violent territorial battles, and vicious attacks by predators. And, with regard to Mother Nature, she can be extremely cruel if the truth be known! A hunter’s well-placed shot with a legal weapon ensures a much quicker means to an end than what Mother Nature has in store.

Hunting benefits wildlife. Scientifically-based and regulated hunting has never led to threatened or endangered wildlife populations. In fact, hunting funds, in particular dollars generated from application fees/hunting permit/stamp sales, have helped many non-game and game species recover from dwindling numbers through public lands acquisition, habitat improvement and maintenance, public information/education, research, and wildlife law enforcement . For example, in 1907, only 41,000 elk remained in North America. Thanks to the money and hard work invested by hunters to conserve and restore habitat, the elk population currently exceeds one million. 

Hunting is part of our rich heritage. We are all descendants of hunters. The rich and varied hunting heritage of Iowa dates back to the old stories and diaries of grandfathers, settlers, frontiersmen, mountain men, and early explorers. It goes further back to the Native American tribes who followed the bison as the seasons turned. It goes even further back to prehistoric people who, according to archaeological  evidence, were the first hunters in Iowa who killed big game animals for food well over 10,000 years ago.

Hunting controls conflicts between humans and wildlife. Whether it’s an area of large rural acreage dwellers undergoing problems associated with wild turkeys, or a farmer who is experiencing crop damage done by white-tailed deer, hunting serves to control game populations within landowner/homeowner tolerance levels. Animals can become habituated to humans, resulting in an increase in property damage and sometimes harmful encounters. For instance, hunting limits deer browse in agricultural areas and also helps to curb deer-motor vehicle collisions as well. Hunting may assist your vegetable or flower garden from getting entirely eaten by deer, too.

Hunting has dedicated participants. Hunters play a critical role by providing key survey information from the field that wildlife managers and biologists need to determine the health of ecosystems. Hunters fill out questionnaires, count wildlife, stop at big game check stations and provide biological samples from harvested game animals.

Hunting helps feed the homeless, the hungry, and others. In 2016-2017, 2,800 deer were donated to HUSH Help Us Stop Hunger), a cooperative effort among Iowa deer hunters, the Food Bank of Iowa, meat processors and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  This provided 550,000 meals to Iowa's less fortunate.  In Iowa , deer hunters have voluntarily donated tens of thousands of pounds over the last five years of lean, tasty venison to help feed those in need through the HUSH program. 

Hunting provides a unique opportunity to harvest and consume locally grown, free-ranging meat. Hunting teaches resourcefulness and how to be more self-sufficient in society. Hunting fits directly into the locavore food movement affording an alternative that lets people have free-range, local, wholesome meat for their friends and families. Wild game meat is pure: no feed additives, growth stimulants (hormones), no dyes, and no styrofoam and cellophane under the fluorescent lights of the supermarket.

Hunting combats the nature deficit disorder. Hunting offers fresh air and fitness for the mind and body. Hunting is not solely about killing an animal. Studies show that safe hunting under the training and guidance of mentors produces a holistic experience that creates less violence in young people. Hunting allows humans to go afield to get reacquainted with the sounds and sights of nature and to escape technology as well as the hustle and bustle of everyday life by getting "off the grid". Surveys show that the number one reason that hunters hunt is to get outdoors and connect with nature. This is affirmed by Randall Eaton in Why We Hunt, “Hunting is how we fall in love with nature. The basic instinct links up with the spiritual, and the result is that we become married to nature.” This marriage drives a connection with nature which simply cannot be replaced. It remains the bedrock of the conservation ethics. In today’s world where parents and children have little time together and are often going in two different directions, hunting is also something that can be done in a one-on-one, uninterrupted, beautiful environment making for wonderful conversations and memories. Additionally, hunting is also about creating indelible images. Early fall mornings, the smell of decaying leaves, sunrise on the duck marsh, sunset in the deer woods, trekking through freshly fallen snow, and those three prairie grouse you missed, all comprise the roots of a hunt to never be forgotten.

Hunting contributes to the economy.  Hunting is great for the economy. Hunters not only purchase trucks, boats, and hunting gear but they also fill their coolers and gas tanks. Hunters stay at resorts, hotels and motels. They eat at local restaurants and cafes. Hunters buy souvenirs, hunting equipment and specialized clothing. They financially bolster communities, small and large. Hunting-related activities support a number of businesses, and contribute to local economies as well as the state’s economy. In Iowa, hunting has an $848 million dollar impact. It generates $562 million dollars in retail sales and supports some 8,856 jobs.

Hunting is safer than  other sports. Statistically, hunting is one of the safer forms of recreation. According to data collected by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, hunting with a gun is the third-safest sport when compared to 28 other popular sports, and has a lower injury rate than golf, volleyball and tackle football. This, most likely, is due in large part to the requirements for successful completion of certified firearm and bowhunter education courses by younger hunters. These courses are funded entirely by hunters through a Federal excise tax on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment.

Hunting is not wild, uncontrolled savagery. Historically, hunters have formulated their own limits. The North American Wildlife Conservation Model is the only one of its kind in the world and was developed by hunters and anglers in the mid 1800’s. These hunters realized that limits needed to be set in order to protect rapidly disappearing wildlife, and assume responsibility for managing wild habitats. Hunters are governed by specific laws and regulations today in their respective pursuits of game animals and birds.