This spring I have not managed to shoot a turkey, and I am short on time before starting a new job, so I likely will not fill a spring turkey tag this year. I filled two tags last year for the first time in Idaho, so perhaps the universe is just evening the odds for the birds. That said, all the work, all the preparation it took to shoot my recurve bow enough that I felt confident that I could harvest at least a jake with my bow this year... and then we didn't even hear a gobble in the area we normally hunt. All season. It was a tough winter and it wouldn't let go, it was snowing on opening day. It would be dishonest not to express some frustration, but we learned some new things and had some good trips regardless.
On my way up to hunt our second trip I was listening to podcast interviews and speeches made by Shane Mahoney. Two mornings later in the middle of a major downpour I retreated to the shelter of my camper and read some of Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac. I put the book down for a minute, sipped on a cup of coffee and reflected a bit on the words I was reading and the words I had been hearing from Shane Mahoney a few days prior to that. I decided to open up my journal and write a bit myself. Shane Mahoney has dedicated his life to conservation. Leopold did the same. There are plenty of others in the hunting and non-hunting communities that have also done so, from the notable John Muir or Teddy Roosevelt to largely unsung heroes working as biologists, forest and park rangers, wildland firefighters, field technicians, etc., working for various local, state, and federal agencies. Conservation is their fight.
I wrote in another piece recently how I consider myself to be a libertarian and then presented my arguably non-libertarian stance on public lands. I believe overall in freedom of choice, the right to bear arms, small efficient government, as well as a strong belief that many of our military actions are not helping half as much as we would wish to believe. I also want to make clear that I am not an anarchist in principle and I do not believe that the market can or would take care of wildlife management or conservation issues without some laws prohibiting market sale, over killing of species etc. The strict Libertarian's "market" would have wiped out the Buffalo, the Antelope, Elk, Deer, Turkeys, and did indeed wipe out the Passenger Pigeon. As a libertarian I also have a deep understanding of the Non-Aggression Principle and believe we ought to do more to live by it within our governments. One thing that is worth noting about the conservation laws and licensing fees is that these things were put in place by hunters and anglers voluntarily (voluntaryists, take note!) in the early 1900s in order to save species from extinction, and without those actions, through licensing, the Pittman Robertson Act, etc., it is very likely that the wildlife that we enjoy today would not be around. Further I would add that while we could debate hunting and fishing as Right, the fact is that it is not constitutionally guaranteed. Though I know some states have tried to make it a constitutional issue at the state level.
I understand that some libertarians vehemently disagree with me on this issue, but from a biological perspective, many believe our planet to be at its carrying capacity of humans. Further, the ever forward movement of progress, development, etc., is constantly destroying habitat. Even some well meaning projects like solar are destroying habitat, don't believe me? I've seen it. Just south and east of Boise there is a major solar farm being put in that is destroying habitat for antelope, coyotes, mule deer, winter range for elk etc. The bottom line is that WE are too many and with nearly 8 billion of us on the planet, we cannot even really hope for true harmony with the natural world. However, I would suggest that we as a species also cannot live without that natural world either and as such it would be a violation of the Non-Aggression Principle to not protect it. The things we have left could be wiped out if we tried. Whether we are talking about the habitat or the wildlife, if we lose it, we will lose it forever. We cannot simply look at the potential economic value of something in order to establish its worth. Our wildlife, our wild lands, the untouched places have value that is higher than simply dollars and resource extraction.
I want to say that I also feel as though I have done a poor job in some ways of communicating with non-hunters and anti-hunters, here in this blog and in person. That ends now, and I sincerely believe that ALL hunters need to end that now. Your "my food poops on your food" shirt isn't funny and does not create dialogue. We need to cross political and philosophical boundaries in order to protect the things we have. Hunting and fishing are a part of that, but so are public lands, so are private lands, and so are people who do not morally agree with taking the life of an animal. So while I might disagree with some of my libertarian friends on public lands or hunting licenses, or disagree with friends who might be vegan or vegetarian, we need to have discourse and it needs to be civil and based on real information, whether we are talking about climate change or Grizzly Bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
I am going to continue writing in this blog and doing so as much as possible but I have also come to the conclusion that Conservation, being important for our very survival is a field that needs focus, the world over. I care about it from the perspective a hunter, but also and more importantly as a father. This summer I'll be doing a bit of work with Idaho Conservation Corps, starting in a few days and ending my chances at spring turkeys or bears. I am also hoping to be returning to school and attempting to pursue a more boots on the ground role in the Conservation world in the future. As far as this blog goes, as I said I will continue writing in it, but I want to make clear that I am going to do my best to do so in a coalition building way. We hunters need to be better at communicating. I have said as much before but I want to double down and challenge myself and any readers following me to do the same.