Hunting is conservation. To understand this, you must first accept conservation is the wise use of our resources. For example, we harvest trees for lumber, but we must harvest at a rate that sustains the resource for the future. The same principle applies to fish and game.

When one puts themselves out there as a public figure promoting a controversial topic, as I have chosen to do as an outdoor writer who advocates for hunting, you expect some blowback. Over the years I, and many of my peers, have been the target of anti-hunters who attack our American heritage of hunting. Their passion is usually rooted in ignorance of the role hunting has in effective conservation. They argue opinions, while ignoring facts.

You wouldn’t have white-tailed deer and wild turkeys across Missouri today if not for the efforts of hunters joining together in the early 1900s to demand a change in wildlife management practices. Hunters know we must have a healthy population of a species if we hope to hunt those animals for our dinner tables. Today’s ethical hunters follow game laws and respect bag limits knowing their actions and expenditures are a major part of the effort to sustain healthy wildlife populations.

Hunters join together to form conservation organizations that have major impacts on wildlife across our country. Because of the National Wild Turkey Federation’s hundreds-of-thousands of members, wild turkeys have been restored to their native range in states where the birds had been void for over a century. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has been instrumental in returning elk to Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Michigan, Virginia and more.

Professionals are at work everyday managing wildlife. Much of the money used to employee and pay these folks comes from hunters. They use science to determine when hunting seasons should occur and what limits should be placed on each species to ensure wildlife game species thrive well into the future.

Hunters fund conservation. Hunter dollars don’t just support game species, hunters benefit all wildlife species. Anti-hunters rarely provide any financial support for wildlife or wild places. They buy no licenses and pay no wildlife taxes. Through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, commonly referred to as the Pittman-Robertson Act, hunters pay a federal excise tax on certain firearms, ammunition and sporting goods. So hunters have contributed billions of dollars to wildlife management. Anglers also contribute to funding for conservation through the similar Dingell–Johnson Act, officially the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act. These funds are used to support and manage all wildlife species, not just those pursued by hunters.

Hunters also generate billions of dollars through license and application fees. According to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Missouri has 1.28 million hunters and anglers who spend $1.67 billion annually and support 28,895 jobs. So if you care about wildlife and wild places, consider thanking hunters for the money they pour into conservation funding in their quest to provide healthy, nutritious, organic game meat for their families.

Without the financial support and dedicated passion of hunters, wildlife would suffer. There would not be funding for supporting bats suffering from white nose syndrome. There would not be money for black bear recovery efforts, or for efforts to save species you’ve never even heard of. Hunters work to further conservation and protect game populations. You would be living in a vastly differently world, one much more devoid of wildlife, if not for hunters.

See you down the trail…