Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hunters as Environmental Stewards

From the Burlington (VT) Free Press:

November 29, 2009
Hunters as environmental stewards
So much more than shooting
By Joel Banner Baird, Free Press Staff Writer
ADDISON — The ruffed grouse flew to safety.
Disappointment — measured by two hunters in a discussion of angles, speed, distance and reflexes —
lingered in the air for about three minutes.
Late-afternoon sun continued to warm this soggy patch of Addison along Dead Creek one Saturday
earlier this month.
One bird’s helicopter-like take-off and two shotgun blasts proved to be the day’s only dramatic
interruption to a quiet rhythm of listening, watching and catching scents.
The outing was declared a success.
“Hunting,” said Patrick Berry of East Middlebury, “is not the same as shooting.”
It’s a maxim that resonates more frequently than rifle fire during the 16-day deer season that ends today.
And it begs the question: What do hunters bring back from woods and swamps — beside a sense of
well-being — even when they return empty handed?
Criticism, both from within and without the environmental community, frames the question differently:
Why does our society indulge a hobby that celebrates the taking of another creature’s life?
Wildlife specialists respond in a nearly unanimous voice to both questions: Hunters are among
Vermont’s most effective conservationists by virtue of what they tell us about otherwise-overlooked land;
by what they spend to protect it; and yes — by what they kill.
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