Bob LaBounty bagged this nice 8 pointer during the 2011 season. In the hunting party are Bruce Geraw, Cody Bennett, Colby Bradford, Mike Bennett and Roger Warner.
It is estimated that nearly 78 percent of all hunters in the United States prefer to pursue whitetail deer. It remains primarily a blue collar pursuit, that continues to attract over 11 million hunters, but the stereotype ends there.
Most hunters aren’t named Bubba, and they don’t live in a beatup, rundown, old trailer, with their second cousins. About 10 percent of the all hunters are female, and they constitute the fastest growing segment of the hunting population.
The average whitetail deer hunter has a success rate of about 12 percent per year and spends upwards of $1,000 annually on equipment and supplies. Hunters tend to have a higher annual income than average for their communities.
A majority are high school graduates, and nearly 30 percent have achieved some college education, and about 80 percent prefer to wear orange while afield.
Resident hunters average about 41.8 years of age, while those in the northeast are considerably older, than those in the rest of the country. The national base is aging, with fewer young hunters to fill the gaps when older hunters decide they no longer want to hunt.
A recent independent survey indicates that over 85 percent of American adults believe hunting retains a legitimate place in modern society, while 62 percent consider hunters to be the world’s leading conservationists.
Despite such wide support, the hunting fraternity remains an underserved, and under represented minority. The public accepts a distorted characterization of hunters as being bloodthirsty killers or dangerous, demented dolts.
Sadly, the media often helps preserve this image, by focusing on increasingly rare hunting accidents. Based on a percentage of injuries per participant, hunting remains one of the safest of all outdoor pursuits.
Hunters, and the hunting sports industry contribute nearly a billion dollars annually to wildlife conservation and habitat preservation. Over $746 million is spent by hunters in the United States annually, on licenses and public land access fees alone. Revenues from license sales contribute over half of the funding source for all state natural resource agencies.
Simply put, hunters are not afraid to put their money where their heart is. Hunters also contribute over $300 million in additional funding to wildlife conservation every year, through such organizations as the National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
That’s a lot of bucks, a term originating from times when the hide of a male deer was worth one dollar. In fact, market hunting was nearly responsible for the extinction of the species, as the estimated US population of whitetail deer dropped to less than a half million animals in the early 1900’s.
In addition to the conservation funding they provide, hunter’s donations supplied over 11 million meals to the less fortunate last year, when nearly 2.8 million pounds of game meat made its way to shelters, food banks and church kitchens and onto the plates of those in need.
Today, due to conservation efforts, the nation’s whitetail population consists of nearly 32 million animals. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the traditional predators have been removed from the equation, and the natural balance of prey to predators has been dramatically skewed, in favor of the deer.
The unnatural imbalance has created some unique problems, especially on the highways and in certain suburban areas. Absent the control that predators and hunters provide, deer populations can double every year.
Two does, left alone can produce up to 35 deer in just 7 years, and 25 pairs can become a herd of more than 2000 in a decade if no animals are removed.
According to insurance industry statistics, deer-vehicle collusions are responsible for an estimated 200 human fatalities, 29,000 injuries and over $1.1 billion in property damage annually.
As a nuisance animal, whitetail deer destroy millions of dollars worth of crops annually. Yet even more disturbing is the fact that one out of every twenty deer will be involved in a collision with a vehicle. I never considered the danger that deer pose, until I studied statistics, which indicate they are undeniably, the deadliest animals on earth.
Hunters, by pursuit of their sport, are responsible for habitat preservation, land conservation and environmental control. In the process of harvesting a whitetail deer, licensed hunters contribute far greater benefits to the ecology of the natural world, than they derive. Unfortunately, there are a number of advocacy groups that prefer to distort this fact, including those who profess to represent animal rights.
In order to protect the rights of licensed hunters to pursue their sport, several states have passed legislation to insure the individual’s right to hunt.
Thirteen states currently provide citizens with the right to hunt and/or fish in their constitutions. Vermont has provided such protection since 1777. Constitutional provisions have been adopted in recent years, in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
In 2010, 14 states considered similar legislation to amend their state constitutions. In 2011, Kentucky and Wyoming passed legislation to include the issue of a right to hunt and fish on the state ballot in 2012. Sadly, to date, the New York legislature has not considered any such proposal.
I’ve often wondered where such legislation come from, and why is it necessary? The right to hunt or fish on public lands is as old as ancient Rome, where it was considered a right of natural law.
In England, such rights were restricted to nobility and the elite. However, such concepts were rejected by the colonies and eventually by the United States. The right to hunt and fish were actually considered for inclusion in the Constitution.
Fortunately, while hunters remain a minority in New York, their right to hunt is protected by “hunter harassment laws,” as defined in Conservation Law, § 11-0110. Interference with lawful taking of wildlife prohibited.
The law explains a person is guilty of interfering with the lawful taking of wildlife by a person properly licensed when, “with intent to prevent the taking of wildlife, in season ... he strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects the licensed person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same.”
All sportsmen, and women, have a responsibility to defend their rights to go afield, and they should report violations of that right to the proper authorities. Failure to do so, will continue to embolden opponents to further alienate this proud minority from the mainstream population.
In this age of political correctness, it would be considered criminal to subject any minority group to the outright discrimination, and outrageous lies commonly used to demonize hunters as a bunch of bumbling, bloodthirsty buffoons.
I can only imagine the numerous ‘suits’ lining up to file a lawsuit, if the character of Elmer Fudd was portrayed as a black, Hispanic or Asian sportsman. It would be considered a hate crime. Remember, if hunters don’t stand up for their own rights, no one else will!
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org