There’s a lot of concern among hunters and anglers these days for the future of their sports.
Over the past several years, government decisions to ban grizzly bear hunting in B.C. and spring black bear hunting in Ontario made many hunters nervous that their brand of hunting could be next.
The Ontario government reinstated the spring black bear hunt just this year. It took more than 20 years of sustained hard effort from Ontario hunters for that to happen.
A new effort is afoot in B.C., it seems, on the part of a group of activists that wants to ban all large predator hunting, sparking a significant response from our sporting community.
More than 20,000 people here signed a petition this spring, urging our government to make science-based decisions when it comes to wildlife management — not decisions based on emotion and “social licence.”
(More information on that campaign can be found online at https://www.wildsheepsociety.com/actnow/. It’s not too late to add your name.)
It’s great that some of the 110,000 or so hunters in B.C. took the time to sign the petition. But is it enough?
There’s no easy answer and likely no magic solution that will save hunting and fishing forever.
The day may come when our society is moved so far in one direction that outdoor sports involving the killing, capture or pursuit of animals will cease.
I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime, and likely not in my daughters’ lives, but after that, who knows?
The big question: Can anything we do now extend the life of our outdoor activities?
People want to know if there is more we can do to protect our activities from those who wield social media, emotion and graphic images to impact voters who live far from places we like to visit.
I believe there is plenty we can do — and it starts close to home.
First, continue to enjoy doing what you do in the outdoors. It’s easy to get frustrated by political events, news stories, Twitter emotion and opportunities denied.
Some people decide it isn’t worth it anymore and quit. More people have set aside their shotguns, rifles and fishing rods in the past two decades than ever before.
The loss of outdoor-loving sportspeople hurts, as what has become a minority group becomes even smaller. Stay out there. Take your family and have a good time. Give your kids the chance to develop a love of the outdoors all their own.
Too busy? Need to skip a hunting or a fishing season?
Buy a licence anyway. At least some of that money goes back to the wild through Habitat Conservation Trust Fund allocations and the politicians counting votes will not see a diminishing population of outdoor enthusiasts.
Perhaps most importantly, do everything in the outdoors scrupulously. Don’t take questionable shots or kill more fish than regulations allow. Do everything as if there is an environmental activist watching over you with an iPhone, looking for YouTube video.
Be disgusted when you witness disregard for the rules and report lawbreakers.
Most non-hunters don’t disagree with hunting, but that changes quickly if they see or hear about incidents in which animals suffer or when hunters or anglers kill more game than allowed.
If you choose to debate non- or anti-hunters, be informed.
Don’t be rude. Anger and off-the-cuff remarks do little to foster goodwill. Accept the fact not all agree with hunting and fishing. Respect differences of opinion. It’s hard to expect anyone to respect our beliefs if we aren’t prepared to extend the same courtesy.
And please, be respectful of the pictures and videos you post on your Facebook pages.
No one says you shouldn’t take photos of your days in the field, but bear in mind not everyone wants or needs to see them. The difference between a non-hunter and an anti-hunter is often one ugly picture on social media. Develop a sense of ethics and respect beyond what is required by the rules.
It’s not wise to ignore the continuing threats to hunting and fishing or pretend we won’t be affected.
Everyone who takes up a rod or rifle must accept some responsibility for the future in some fashion.
Hunters and anglers have little to gain and lots to lose. It’s hard to see the day we will be handed more opportunity.
But it will be harder yet to watch what we have left continue to be taken away.
Robert Koopmans is an avid angler and hunter who spends as much time as possible in B.C.’s wild places. He also hosts the Hunting & Fishing British Columbia podcast (find it on Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your podcasts). To share a thought, send an email to email@example.com.