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The Roving Sportsman… Hats Off to All Hunters and Shooters!

Hunters are the “salt of the earth.” Yes, without a doubt, there are a few exceptions — you know — the ones who usually make the news, like the occasional slob hunter or poacher. They are the ones who seem to be talked about most often, especially by those who hold some degree of opposition to hunting in general and usually know little about the subject or have never experienced the joy of it all.

As with any group of people, be it restaurant workers, schoolteachers, or race car drivers, they can all be defined by a bell curve, with a small percentage at the top and the bottom and the bulk of the group falling somewhere in the middle. The small percentage at the bottom represents the “bad guys” or takers, with the same small percentage at the top representing the greatest contributors or givers, and the bulk somewhere in the middle consisting of those who enjoy hunting and do so ethically. At the same time, they also add to the financial contribution made by all hunters.

It is today’s hunters who are the greatest contributors to the conservation efforts made on behalf of all wildlife — not just the species that they may prefer to pursue. Many species-specific organizations today focus on one type of animal or bird, such as the National Wild Turkey Federation. The bulk of such conservation organizations have youth-oriented programs, education, and safety-related programs and devote a great deal of time and money to conservation efforts. In their conservation interests, conventions, conferences, and seminars are held, wherein how-to information is shared regarding developing food plots and managing both woods and fields to benefit wildlife by improving both cover areas and food sources. The greatest side-benefit made by each conservation group is that whatever work is done on behalf of one species will also benefit most other species that already inhabit the area.

A great number of non-hunters really are just not aware of how much work hunters accomplish in the name of conservation. It is this work that ultimately benefits not just all wildlife but also benefits all people who enjoy wildlife. It has not been that long ago that the wild turkeys’ numbers throughout the United States were in serious decline. Through establishing the National Wild Turkey Federation and through their work with state agencies and volunteers (usually hunters), those dwindling turkeys are now at a level that supports a viable hunting season in each of the 48 continental states plus Hawaii. Through the continued management efforts of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the help of volunteers, our state herd of elk has grown to a size that now allows a hunting season to maintain the herd size at a sustainable level. The wild turkey and the elk are both great examples of how the efforts of hunters now provide the opportunity for everyone to enjoy seeing and studying these great creatures.

In 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Fund was established along with the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, into which excise taxes were paid by firearms and ammunition manufacturers on their products, as well as archery equipment manufacturers. These excise tax dollars collected since 1937 are specifically designated to be used by state wildlife agencies for conservation and related purposes. Because of the purchases of these firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment by hunters and shooters, a milestone has been achieved, and a recent announcement has revealed that the excise tax contributions just topped $16.1 billion! When adjusted for inflation, the total is more than $25 billion!

The general public needs to be aware that for most hunters, it is just not the taking of game that is the most important consideration; it is doing the work that is necessary to protect and conserve all wildlife for future generations to enjoy that is critical. Just as we truly need to thank a veteran for all the freedoms we enjoy in this great and unique country of ours, we also need to thank a hunter for the rich abundance of wildlife we enjoy! Responsible and ethical hunters should hold their heads high!