- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 29, 2003

In a survey concerning the state of hunting in America, the current issue of Field & Stream magazine actually reveals how Americans feel about a lot of things. It answers far more than the simple question of whether we should hunt.

No doubt the first barrage of criticism will be fired by the animal rights movement, which will say that a survey of 101/2million F&S; readers is really little more than the pulpit preaching to the choir. But try to find any other survey organization that can come up with 101/2million potential survey subjects as quickly as F&S; can.

All too often we are bombarded with all-telling “surveys” that might involve little more than 500 people. Whatever results are gleaned from it, the survey then is supposed to represent a broad spectrum of American opinion. What a bunch of malarkey.

Meanwhile, far-reaching U.S. government surveys have already established that a vast number of Americans has nothing whatsoever against recreational hunting as long as it is governed by strictly enforced rules and regulations.

The F&S; study reflects issues concerning sportsmen and trends shaping the future of hunting in America and, yes, the answers came from readers who hunt or have nothing against hunting. What the survey showed, however, is that hunters more than ever are committed to the preservation of land, the animals they pursue and the traditions and values that have been passed down from generation to generation.

“Hunting is part of the fabric of American history and today remains a cherished activity for millions,” said Sid Evans, editor of Field & Stream. “While we write about these issues each month, we felt it was important to register what our readers think.”

Those readers quickly indicated a broad range of views that represent hunting as a whole, including:

• 63 percent more women are hunting than 10 years ago.

• 83 percent plan on introducing their children to hunting.

• 85 percent believe states should use public funds to acquire more land for public hunting.

• 64 percent are equally concerned about gun rights and land conservation.

“Based on these results, our readers underscored that they are devoted to land preservation and the recruitment of the next generation of hunters,” Evans said. “Through such programs as the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Step Outside Program, which encourages hunters to introduce the sport to kids and the Walk-In Hunting program in Kansas, which opened up a million acres of private lands to hunting, our industry is taking the right steps in addressing issues concerning hunters in America.”

Said magazine reader and Nebraska survey respondent Jay Curtis Olsen: “Hunting has taught me many things: patience, persistence, respect for property and game. It has even taught me lessons about myself.”

Michael G. Bennett of Reston remarked, “My father hunts, my grandfather hunted, and it goes back many, many generations … so I believe it’s genetic.”

Allen Gettle of Wellsboro, Pa., said, “I enjoy the peace, the time with my son, the exercise and clean air, trying to outwit game on their turf. I enjoy the freedom.”

While the anti-hunting movement screeches loudly about the “rights” of animals, a much quieter American hunter population that hovers between 17 and 20million has taken steps to ensure the protection and even the survival of wildlife species. Had it not been for the cooperation by hunters, self-imposed limits, even asked-for curtailment of the hunting of several waterfowl species over the years, the survival of the canvasback duck, the Canada goose and others might be in doubt. Ditto for the wild turkey, bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope.

And everyone knows about the hundreds of millions of dollars collected and spent by Ducks Unlimited, an international organization made up of hunter conservationists whose purchases of invaluable wetlands all across North America have assured not only the survival and plentiful reproduction of species sought by hunters but also dozens of non-hunted species that now thrive thanks to the dollars of DU members.

When was the last time you asked how much money PETA, the Fund for Animals or the U.S. Humane Society has spent to save a wildlife species? If any money was ever spent, it would be a pittance compared to that expended by hunters. But, friends, do they ever shout, holler and pound their chests.

By the way, Field & Stream’s 2003 National Hunting Survey was conducted over a three-month period from readers who responded to questions posted on the magazine’s Web site, www.fieldandstream.com. Have a look at the publication. Established in 1895, Field & Stream has the largest circulation of any special interest magazine in the nation and is published 11 times a year. It is owned by AOL Time Warner Inc.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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