Provided by Butch Manasse, Butch Manasse Outdoor Adventures
I am not much of a preacher, although I used to be a pretty fair hand at court room trials, before I quit lawyering to pursue my dreams. However, hunting is a sport I and my family have devoted much of our lives to. Therefor I am hoping you will spare me some of your valuable time to read what follows. I think it is important, and forgive me if I step on any toes! My intent is only to stir you.
Joan and I attended the SCI convention banquet on Saturday night, Jan, 24, 2009, in Reno, and we were privileged to listen to an address from none other than Antonin Scalia, the well known US SUPREME COURT Justice. It turns out he is a hunter; even having an elk head hanging in his Supreme Court Chambers! Our kind of guy! He talked about carrying his .22 rifle (cased) on the NY subways as a kid, to get to his rifle matches. He pointed out that such conduct now is no longer socially acceptable- and he expressed grave concern that the general populace has shifted its’ views on guns so far away from what was the norm just a short 40 or so years ago! And of course he is correct.
He then went on to make a point that deeply resonated with me; namely that if we allow hunting to become an elitist sport- a rich mans or wealthy man’s sport only – then hunting is doomed. He pointed to what has just happened in England with the recent loss of fox hunting. In England, the general populace had long been unable to participate (high cost- low access)– and the inevitable result was that support fell away for the sport, until the majority no longer cared one way or the other about it!! He warned we cannot let that happen to us in the US! General public apathy will doom our sport.
Justice Scalia sounded a bell that is still ringing in my ears! His two fold message: Make sure there is plenty of public access to decent hunting areas; and secondly get kids involved at every possible opportunity. If we fail to keep the interest of the general public- both our sport and our gun rights will inevitably suffer! It is beyond argument. And folks- we are very much losing the battle.
Right now, we all share the blame. No insult intended, but it is long past time to wake up! We routinely purchase prime hunting areas for our own use, and close off the public. We routinely lease up the same types of areas for personal use; for use by friends; for use by our “club”. Doing so effectively denies other members of the public access. We do not do this out of mean spiritedness; we do it so we have control and better hunting. But the undeniable result is that members of the general public are shut out. Slowly, unknowingly, unintentionally, we are shooting ourselves in the foot; and are diminishing the likelihood that young people will retain the desire to hunt. After all, studies have clearly shown that a major reason people are currently dropping out of our hunting ranks, is because they have “no place to hunt.” Allowing a few members of the general public to hunt our grounds will cost us nothing!!
Yet we continue to ignore or else just fail to perceive the access problem and it’s insidious and virtually inevitable results. Even the smallest and easiest solutions go ignored. WE NEED TO WAKE UP!! By way of example, every year at my booking office, we process many Wyoming license applications. As part of the application form — there is small blank which allows an applicant to make a voluntary donation to the Access Yes fund. You can donate any amount, even one dollar. Yet not one applicant in 50 chooses to donate even a lousy dollar to that fund!! Perhaps the perception is it benefits only residents, which of course is not true- the access is for the public!
We simply are not perceiving the problem!! Most of us are fortunate to have the funds and opportunities we do. Yet if we are honest, many people are less fortunate. A common complaint, throughout the US is this: “When I was a kid, I could hunt just about anywhere!” While that will never again be true– we cannot afford to continue the present trend of less access and fewer participants!! We must take positive steps, both individually and as a group, to promote access first; and the involvement of new blood second.
I personally have been dimly cognizant of the problem, but Justice Scalia’s observations have really crystallized my awareness! I expect most of us have never seriously considered the consequences of poor access. But it is also understandable as I suspect most of us have remained unaware of the repercussions associated with lack of access. I now firmly believe that every single hunter and client of ours MUST realize that we absolutely have to fund general public access! Failure to do so is just not an option!!!!!!!!
Failure to take action to correct this problem means that ultimately our future kids and grand kids, will find their hunting rights and gun rights gone. And once gone–they will never come back! If the majority of the general public is foreclosed from decent hunting areas; if kids are not aggressively sought after and properly trained in woodmanship, conservation, arms and hunting; then the public will eventually become apathetic toward the sport we all love and cherish. Without a general consensus of support by the general public, our rights will just dissolve over time.
Moreover, animals will suffer greatly if hunters cease to buy licenses. It is our license funds and special excise taxes; and our trophy fees and the like, which have saved our American, Asian and African wildlife from virtual extinction. Without hunters, the funds will dry up, and so will the game we love so see and hunt.
WE- MEANING YOU AND I — AND EVERY SINGLE FRIEND OF OURS –HAS AN AFFIRMATIVE DUTY TO ACTIVELY CONTRIBUTE FUNDS (MONEY!) AND OUR TIME TO PURCHASE AND SUPPLY ACCESS!! LIKEWISE TO INSURE THAT YOUNG PEOPLE GET INVOLVED! FAILURE WILL ULTIMATELY DOOM OUR SPORT AND VERY POSSIBLY WILDLIFE ITSELF!
My hope is that I can motivate and challenge some of the thousands of clients that we try to help and serve every year. My hope is that every one of you who reads this will make yourself a promise. The promise I am asking each of you to make is not all that big a thing. I am asking each and every one of you to do TWO things:
First- I ask every one of you (and myself especially) to promise yourself — and your children and grandchildren and fellow hunters— that you will make a donation of at least $100 per year, every year for the rest of your life – to some fund that purchases public access. I think almost every state has such programs in place. If not- send it to a state that does! Most (but not all) of us will not suffer hugely from doing so- but the potential benefits may go on for a hundred years! If you cannot afford that sum do whatever you can afford, please. Love your sport enough to do this.
Second- I want each one of you to promise yourself and your grandchildren and fellow sportsmen – that you will introduce at least one youngster (or an adult) a year to the great out of doors – take them fishing, take them hunting, take them shooting, take them hiking- but for gosh sakes-TAKE THEM!! Introduce one new kid (or an adult) every year to our sport! If you are like I am, there are very few things in our lives that can move us so deeply as watching the sun rise over the wilderness; or listening to the gravelly growl of a big bull elk; or hearing the sweet sound of a woodcock’s mating flight; or the joy of a squirrels chatter. Please, — please, do this in remembrance of those who taught you to love the outdoors. Make it your legacy to Pass it on!
Lastly, if you believe in any of what I have suggested, then I ask you to please email me once in a while. Send me the pictures and reports of your efforts. I will post them to our web site so we can all take pride in our mutual efforts!!! I hereby pledge myself to make this a goal of my life, for the rest of my life. Please join me, for the sake of our future!
PO Box 20403
Cheyenne, Wyoming 82003