BirdCouple has blogged several times before about hunters, and the useful role they play in wildlife and habitat management and conservation.
Recently, a member of the birding community had some rather negative things to say on our local email listserv regarding wildfowl hunters. He was angered and disturbed to hear hunters in the distance while he was participating in a bird count.
We'll simply reprint Warren's response below:
"I don't normally weigh in here on debates like this, but since I disagree so much with what you wrote, I feel I have to respond - politely, but passionately.
First off, I am an avid birder and nature-lover, and have never hunted or owned a gun in my life. That said:
1) Birding and hunting have gone hand in hand since the days of Audubon and before; the two have always been linked historically and in other ways.
2) The "Duck Stamp," which hunters have to purchase, has saved about 5 million acres of habitat since its inception in 1934. The refuges we love most - like Bombay Hook and Blackwater - were purchased almost ENTIRELY with duck stamp funds. Lisa and I wouldn't dream of going birding without our duck stamp along. I hope everyone on this list has purchased theirs. (Although I do wish they would issue a version that had neotropical migrants on it for us non- hunters).
3) Ducks Unlimited and other such groups (like those for Pheasants and Ruffed Grouse) do play an important role in habitat and species conservation. Do they over-hype their achievements and role? Probably, but what group doesn't?
4) Responsible - repeat responsible - hunting of non-endangered species actually helps save and manage species. In a perfect world, yes, man's fingerprints would be completely off nature. But that world doesn't exist anymore. "Going Wild" by Jan Dizard is a great book about this tension.
5) I think the decision not to include hunters and reach out to them was one of the main reasons the environmental movement that began in the (1970s) stalled out. We should actually be lamenting the decline of hunters (there was an article about this in the November National Geo), which is happening along with other losses of rural America.
When I go out birding (or hiking the Appalachian Trail), I feel I have a lot more in common with a hunter who knows the land, the weather and the species he's after than I do with someone whose entire world consists of asphalt, Starbucks, Wal-mart, the office, video games and the local gym. Thanks for listening.