People hunt and fish for a variety of reasons, often multiple reasons, and the priority can change from time to time. In addition to providing job security to surveyors, monitoring those trends also provides insight into our society and which way it’s trending. For example, the latest studies and surveys show a significant shift toward a preference for wild game and fish among both hunters and non-hunters. And there are some pretty good reasons.
First, there are health benefits. Wild game and fish are an all-natural organic protein, free of antibiotics, growth hormones, and other drugs and chemicals. And for those concerned about such things, there is no genetic modification other than what Mother Nature already does through natural selection. Fish and game are lower in fat, cholesterol and the fatty acids associated with health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. In short, it’s better for you.
Granted, you can’t escape the mortality factor. If you eat meat, fish or poultry, something must die to feed you. But wouldn’t you rather have more knowledge about how that occurred? I enjoy a big fat juicy restaurant burger as much as the next guy, but I admittedly would just as soon not know how it came from pasture to plate. The plethora of bacterial outbreaks and processed food recalls are testament enough to how our food could potentially be mishandled. There’s no worry if you do it yourself.
If you don’t eat meat, fish or poultry, an anti-hunting stance might seem easier to defend, but you’ve got other issues to address, particularly being environmentally responsible.
From 100 acres of undeveloped forest, I could sustainably harvest deer, birds, squirrels, rabbits and countless other game species indefinitely, without harm to the present or future potential of their populations or habitat. In so doing, the greenhouse gases generated would amount to little more than what I exhale and perhaps a tiny bit from the combustion of my firearm, assuming I wasn’t using a bow.
Or I could hire a professional logger to come in with chain saws, bunchers, skidders, chippers and dozers to remove all the trees and stumps, and grade the soil. Then I could pay someone to till the soil, treat it with minerals and fertilizer, and plant soybeans. No other creatures would live there. Some on neighboring properties might gain slight benefit by feeding on the plants while they stood. And I would have to retill, replant and reharvest annually, at least until the soil could no longer provide the necessary nutrients.
The locavore movement has become popular and harvesting your own protein locally goes along nicely with that philosophy. Studies have show that most fish or game is taken within 100 miles of the hunter or angler’s home. That further reduces the amount of fossil fuels used and greenhouse gases produced in transporting your food – animal or vegetable.
In addition to the selfish motivation of putting more food on the table, there are also unselfish benefits that result from at least trying to gather your own local organic protein. Through the simple act of purchasing a hunting or fishing license, the hunter or fisherman does more, far more than anyone else to protect and preserve wildlife habitat for an array of game and nongame species. In the process, they provide land and access for nonhunters to enjoy.
Hunting and fishing aren’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits. In many cases, biologists have done such an effective job of management that hunters and anglers can harvest a surplus without detriment to the species or their environment. And if you get in their good graces, they just might be willing to share some of the bounty with you. You’ll both be far better off for it.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: