I attend a great deal of both outdoor trade shows and consumer shows over the course of a given year, with many of them concentrated between January and April. Recently, I attended the annual Shot Show in Las Vegas, the National Rifle Association great outdoors show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the 2014 Pheasant Fest in Milwaukee Wisconsin. I was fortunate at each of these events to meet with numerous hunters, outdoorsmen and women and discuss some of the issues of today facing today’s hunters.
There is a great deal to be concerned about out there. Many people are aware of the plight of Melissa Bachman, and her castigation for shooting a lion in South Africa last year. When I spoke with Melissa at the Shot Show, she had received over 1600 anonymous death threats as well as numerous threats of vandalism and violence against her relative’s and her property. Somebody bought her background information and posted her name, address, phone number and email as well as her parents’ information and advocated vandalism and violent acts against them. The police had to add extra officers to patrol her neighborhood.
Fortunately, so far the threats have been just that—threats, with no action.
Many people heard about the auction of the black rhinoceros hunt by Dallas Safari Club this year, which raised over $350,000.00 to directly benefit black rhino conservation in the host country, Namibia. The animal auctioned was one that had been targeted for cull (killing) anyway, as it was past breeding and was a threat to other rhinos. The gentleman that bought that hunt now travels with a 24/7 security detail because of the thousands of threats to his personal safety.
Finally, I was fortunate enough to be granted an audience with this year’s Miss Kansas and Miss USA contestant and finalist, Theresa Vail. Theresa is everything that anyone and I would want my own daughters to aspire to be. She is smart, attractive, funny and serves in the Army National Guard while studying to become a dentist. She loves to hunt and fish, and she is an active advocate against bullying of all kinds. As a matter of fact, she speaks on a weekly basis to schools across the country on that and other topics.
Since her revelation on a televised, international platform that she is an active hunter and conservationist who believes in the North American conservation model of sustained use, she has also received numerous threats of violence and defamation against her. Now, one could argue that there are numerous scientifically proven benefits to hunting in the North American conservation model. The right to keep and bear arms is written into our country’s constitution so that never again will we be ruled by a single monarch or ruling class. You could also point to the numerous studies that show that giving value to an animal as a game animal benefits its population in 100% of the cases where it was done, and yes, that includes rhinoceroses and elephants.
The problem is that there will always be a vocal minority with access to social networks and media as well as an extremely well funded rapid response team of anti-hunters and activists out there to do whatever it takes to get their message out. No one should have to hide their passions for hunting and shooting. The fact that these three individuals have received so much directed against them is quite appalling.
The same people that would advocate against the killing of animals for any reason see no problem in advocating murder and violence against someone who does.
Even more concerning is the fact that there are people out there that are fellow HUNTERS that, even with their knowledge of hunting rules and ethics, conservation, ecology, the economics of hunting and shooting, and the benefits to animals that are hunted, still make comments like, “I am a hunter, but I don’t believe in shooting lions or elephants or rhinos.” We, as the hunting collective, need to hang together or we will all surely hang separately.
What do you think? Are you “On the fence?” Let us know in the comments section below.
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