AN AMERICAN’S DUTIES AND RIGHTS
I am not much of a preacher, although I used to be a pretty fair hand at courtroom trials, that is before I quit lawyering to pursue my dreams. However, hunting is a sport that I and my family have devoted much of our lives to. Therefore I am hoping you will spare me some of your valuable time to read what follows. I think it is important, and forgive me if I step on any toes! My intent is only to stir you to action!
At an SCI Convention in Reno, and we were privileged to listen to an address from none other than Justice Antonin Scalia, the well known US SUPREME COURT Justice. It turns out he is a hunter; even having an elk head hanging in his Supreme Court Chambers! Our kind of guy! He talked about carrying his .22 rifle (cased) on the NY subways as a kid, to get to his rifle matches. He pointed out that such conduct now is no longer socially acceptable- and he expressed grave concern that the general populace has shifted its’ views on guns so far away from what was the norm just a short 40 or so years ago! And of course he is correct.
He then went on to make a point that deeply resonated with me; namely that if we allow hunting to become an elitist sport- a rich man’s or wealthy man’s sport only – then hunting is doomed!!!!
He pointed to what has just happened in England with the recent loss of fox hunting. In England, the general populace had long been unable to participate (high cost- low access)– and the inevitable result was that support fell away for the sport, until the majority no longer cared one way or the other about it. He warned we cannot let that happen to us in the US! General public apathy will doom our sport. It in an inevitable result.
Justice Scalia sounded a bell that is still ringing in my ears. His two fold message: Make sure there is plenty of public access to decent hunting areas; and secondly– get kids involved at every possible opportunity. If we fail to keep the interest of the general public-and of future generations — then both our sport and our gun rights will inevitably suffer. It is beyond argument. And folks- we are very much losing the battle.
Right now, we all share the blame. No insult intended, but it is long past time to wake up! We routinely purchase prime hunting areas for our own use, and close off the public. We routinely lease up the same types of areas for personal use; for use by friends; for use by our “club”. Doing so effectively denies other members of the public access. We do not do this out of mean spiritedness; we do it so we have control and better hunting. But the undeniable result is that members of the general public are shut out. Slowly, unknowingly, unintentionally, we are shooting ourselves in the foot; and are diminishing the likelihood that future young people will retain the desire to hunt. After all, various studies have clearly shown that a major reason people are currently dropping out of our hunting ranks is because they have “no place to hunt.” If each of us will simply allow a few members of the general public to hunt our private grounds – it will cost us nothing!! But we just may reap great rewards, especially if you invite youngsters to hunt there!!
Just go ahead and do it- you will sleep happier.
If we continue to ignore or else just fail to perceive the access problem then it’s insidious and the natural and inevitable result will be people stop caring!! If they cannot do it, they lose interest rapidly. Sell the guns, stop buying hunting equipment, no sense teaching your Johnny or young Susan the art of shooting- they have no place to do it anyway!!
Even the smallest and easiest solutions go ignored. By way of example, every year at my booking office, we process many Wyoming license applications. As part of the application form — there is small blank which allows an applicant to make a voluntary donation to the Access Yes fund. You can donate any amount, even one dollar. Yet not one applicant in 50 chooses to donate even a lousy dollar to that fund!! Perhaps the perception is that it benefits only residents, which of course is not true- the access is for the general public!
Most of us in SCI are fortunate to have the funds and opportunities we do. Yet if we are brutally honest with ourselves- and we must be, many people are less fortunate. A common complaint, throughout the US is this: “When I was a kid, I could hunt just about anywhere!” While that will never again be true– we cannot afford to continue walking obliviously down the present road of less access and fewer participants!!
We MUST take positive steps, both individually and as a group, to promote PUBLIC access first; and then to promote the involvement of new young hunters, fishers and outdoorsmen.
I personally have been dimly cognizant of the problem, but Justice Scalia’s keen observations have really crystallized my awareness! I expect most of us have never seriously considered the consequences of poor access. But that is also understandable — as I suspect most of us have remained blissfully unaware of the repercussions associated with lack of access.
I now firmly believe that every single hunter MUST realize that we absolutely have to fund general public access! Failure to do so is just not an option. AND WE MUST INVOLVE YOUNGSTERS WITH A PLACE TO SHOOT AND A PLACE TO HUNT!
Failure to take action to correct these two problems means that ultimately our future kids and grand kids will find their hunting rights and gun rights gone. And once gone–they will never come back! If the majority of the general public is foreclosed from decent hunting areas; if kids are not aggressively sought after and properly trained in woodmanship, conservation, firearms and hunting; then the public will eventually become apathetic toward the sport we all love and cherish.
Without a general consensus of support by the general public, our rights will just dissolve over time and interest in hunting will disappear!!
Moreover, animals will suffer greatly if hunters cease to buy licenses. It is our license funds and special excise taxes; and our trophy fees and the like, which have saved our American, Asian and African wildlife from virtual extinction. Without hunters, the funds will dry up, and so will the game we love so see and hunt.
My hope is that I can motivate and challenge some of the thousands of clients that we try to help and serve every year. My hope is that every one of you who reads this will make yourself a promise. The promise I am asking each of you to make is not all that big a thing. I am asking each and every one of you to do THREE things:
FIRST: PLEASE PASS THIS ON. Send it to all your friends; send it to your legislators; send it to the arms manufacturers; send it to the equipment manufacturers ; send it the big outfits like Bass Pro, Cabelas and so on. WE need them all to step up and spend money to boost interest and to provide shooting ranges and hunting access!! It is in their own best interests and in ours as well. No more excuses, you can do this right now, and help motivate more folks to do the needed things!
SECOND: I ask every one of you (and myself especially) to promise yourself — and promise your children and grandchildren and fellow hunters— that you will make a donation of at least $100 per year, every year for the rest of your life to some fund that purchases public access.
I think almost every state has such programs in place. If not, send it to a state that does.
At the same time – if you have private lands, or your club has private lands- provide some public access for a few days or a week or more, each year. My rifle club donates several free weekends each fall to allow folks to come in and sight in their rifles. It costs us next to nothing.
THIRD: I want each one of you to promise yourself and to your grandchildren and fellow sportsmen – that you will introduce at least one youngster (or an adult) EVERY year to the great out of doors – take them fishing, take them hunting, take them shooting, take them hiking- but for gosh sakes-TAKE THEM!! Introduce one new kid (or an adult) EVERY year to our sport! If you are like I am, there are very few things in our lives that can move us so deeply as watching the sun rise over the wilderness; or listening to the gravelly growl of a big bull elk; or hearing the sweet sound of a woodcock’s mating flight; or the joy of a squirrels chatter. Please, do this in remembrance of those who taught YOU to love the outdoors. Make it your legacy to Pass it on.
I hereby pledge myself to make this a goal of my life, for the rest of my life. Please join me, for the sake of our future. Thank you.
Butch Manasse- Vice President