Every four years, the confluence of hunting season and the national general election causes me to think about our freedom, democracy and our passion for hunting grouse and woodcock that we so deeply cherish. I think about this in two ways: 1) we hunt grouse and woodcock because we can, and 2) we hunt grouse and woodcock because someone was there to help us get started.
We often hear that hunting is a privilege – which it is. We often hear that the percentage of hunters in North America is in decline – which it is. What many do not realize is that there is more recreational hunting in North America, and more hunters afield, than practically anywhere else in the world.
That reality occurred because our forefathers declared that wildlife belongs to the general public, not the person who owns the land which is in direct contrast to the European approach where wildlife belongs to the landowner. That reality occurred because our forefathers granted the right for citizens to possess firearms. That reality also occurred because conservationists, more than 100 years ago, adopted the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, where hunters like Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell led sportsmen to regulate hunting and organize sportsmen’s groups, which eventually led to a sustainable mechanism to fund scientifically sound wildlife restoration efforts by taxing ourselves.
The principles of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation are explained more fully through a set of guidelines known as the Seven Sisters for Conservation.
Sister #1 – Wildlife is Held in the Public Trust. In North America, natural resources and wildlife on public lands are managed by government agencies to ensure that current and future generations always have wildlife and wild places to enjoy.
Sister #2 – Prohibition on Commerce of Dead Wildlife. Commercial hunting and the sale of wildlife is prohibited to ensure the sustainability of wildlife populations.
Sister #3 – Democratic Rule of Law. Hunting and fishing laws are created through the public process where everyone has the opportunity and responsibility to develop systems of wildlife conservation and use.
Sister #4 – Hunting Opportunity for All. Every citizen has an opportunity, under the law, to hunt and fish in the United States and Canada.
Sister #5 – Non-Frivolous Use. In North America, individuals may legally kill certain wild animals under strict guidelines for food and fur, self-defense and property protection. Laws restrict against the casual killing of wildlife merely for antlers, horns or feathers.
Sister #6 – International Resources. Wildlife and fish migrate freely across boundaries between states, provinces and countries. Working together, the United States and Canada jointly coordinate wildlife and habitat management strategies. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 demonstrates this cooperation between countries to protect wildlife. The Act made it illegal to capture or kill migratory birds, except as allowed by specific hunting regulations.
Sister #7 – Scientific Management. Sound science is essential to managing and sustaining North America’s wildlife and habitats. For example, scientific management of our nation’s forests creates habitat diversity that benefits a wide array of wildlife including ruffed grouse, American woodcock, numerous species of songbirds, white-tailed deer and more.
This rich hunting heritage, and the precious privileges and freedoms we enjoy today are borne on the backs of many wise and dedicated sportsmen of past generations. And now it’s our turn – which brings me to the second thought I mentioned earlier: we hunt grouse and woodcock because someone was there to help us get started.
Most people do not just wake up one morning and decide they are going to go grouse or woodcock hunting that day, even though they had never been before. In the remaining days left this season, take someone out to the woods for their first grouse and woodcock hunt. Make an early New Year’s resolution to get involved with, or start, an RGS Mentor Hunter Program in your area. The Women’s Introduction to Wingshooting has been a great success, but we need more chapters to get one started.
It’s not as hard as you might think! These are turn-key programs with RGS creating all the booklets, guides, patches, teaching aids and other resources you need to get one going. Mark Fouts will be there every step of the way to help ensure your program is a success.
This is our heritage. Don’t let this be the last generation to enjoy it!
This President’s Message was first published in the Winter 2016 issue of the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine.