Most Americans have an idea of what they should be thankful for during Thanksgiving. However, Dr. Shane Mahoney has stated in his 2014 keynote address to Pheasants Forever and Quail Unlimited, “There is not a thing that we have of value, not our capacities as human beings, not our families, not our freedoms, not our institutions, there is nothing that we can value as human beings that ultimately is not ultimately dependent on a world that is sustaining for us.”
Let’s say for a moment you had to choose only one thing to give to your children and grandchildren. Would that one thing be something material or intangible, an heirloom or a tradition? Or would that one thing be to pass on the practice of conserving the great ecosystems that foster and support wildlife through hunting and contributing to responsible wildlife management? Hunters shoulder most of the burden, not only financially, to continue the great tradition of the hunter conservationist in North America. Every fall men and women take to the wild places in this country and share that great tradition with their children and grandchildren, teaching them a love for wildlife and their habitat. Continuing the practice of learning and utilizing all the skills needed to go venture into the wilderness, become one with nature even if just for a day, and return with food or even just an appreciation for nature is something to be very thankful for.
People who live in urban areas and big cities are making up a rapidly growing percentage of hunter conservationists. As the proportion of young people who spend most if not all their time in an urban setting away from the outdoors continues to grow, the need to share these sacred traditions also increases. Every hunter remembers whoever it was that took them on their first hunt, how it felt learning that great tradition, and how transformed they felt on the ride home. It often isn’t until a bit later in life that the importance of being a hunter conservationist is realized. Thanks to the Pittman-Robertson Act, 11% of all expenses made on arms, ammunition, and archery equipment goes toward the restoration of wild birds and mammals as well as to develop and manage their habitats. This means even money spent on hunting equipment in the city goes toward conservation deep in the wilderness.
This thanksgiving, let us be thankful for a tradition that contributes to maintaining a world that is sustaining to us as human beings. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation continues the same tradition established in 1620 when Native Americans taught European settlers how to live off the land by cultivating corn and other crops, and how to fish and hunt in a sustainable way. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen.”