Growing up in western Washington and Oregon, in our circles of family and friends, hunting meant several things. Hunting meant camaraderie, outdoorsmanship, and filling the freezer with meat for the year. It wasn’t until much later that I ever questioned the notion that hunting might be considered a sport. Although there are many aspects of sport in hunting and fishing, the classification of hunting as a sport leaves much to be desired.
Hunting and fishing have always been about putting food on the table. Only recently in our history have concepts such as voluntary restraint and catch and release become popular. It’s a great thing that they have. Along with the introduction of voluntary restraint laws, such as shooting only bucks or bulls, came the notion that hunting should be regulated like a sport such as football or golf.
This notion of sport has led to the misinformed view held by some individuals that hunters kill animals mostly for fun or trophies. This is a dangerous viewpoint that certainly puts hunting and fishing in a poor light. Outdoor sport enthusiasts should be quick to explain that without the element of providing meat, hunting would have no justification whatsoever.
The sporting elements of the hunt have derived largely from the desire of the hunting public to preserve the opportunity to hunt by not decimating game populations with overhunting. By this reasoning, sport regulations have improved the hunting and fishing world and conservationism by leaps and bounds in the past 100 to 200 years. In Theodore Roosevelt’s time, he expected elk to quickly follow the bison into extinction. By implementing sport regulations, hunters have not only saved the elk but allowed them to thrive.
In furtherance of this type of sporting view, organizations comprised of hunters have improved, conserved and saved large tracts of land that would otherwise have been lost to “progress.” Organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Trout Unlimited and many others have set the highest bar for environmentalism. Hunting dollars have done more to improve and save animal habitat and endangered species than perhaps all laws and regulations.
Sporting regulations have been a great improvement to avoid the destruction of wildlife. To classify hunting and fishing as simply a sport is unfair and causes confusion. Without the meat being one of the goals of the hunter, hunting is not a viable activity. Our duty as hunters in this age of urbanization is to articulate the distinctions of our sport to non participants in a non offensive, convincing manner.