On December 20, 2023

The reality about hunting and trapping

Dear Editor,

A recent commentary by an anti-hunting activist took their standard track in denying the value of the sporting community to wildlife stewardship in Vermont. It is intriguing that this handful of activists has the hubris to claim that they speak for the general public. They don’t. They speak for themselves. If they spoke for the general public, it wouldn’t be the same dozen people writing all the commentaries we have been subjected to for the last eight years. 

As of 2020, Vermont ranked 14th in the nation for hunting participation. About 10% of Vermonters purchase a hunting license annually. They all have friends, neighbors and family who support them in their lifestyle. Those license purchases provide millions in direct revenue from that small portion of the population, which helps secure our federal funding for wildlife. This funding is generated by excise taxes on the equipment hunters buy to hunt with, and these funds can only be drawn down when license revenues are used for legitimate fish and wildlife stewardship work. Without these license sales, Vermont stands to lose millions of dollars in funding that secures the health and stewardship of our wildlife.

I expect the numbers above dramatically undercount the Vermonters who participate in hunting. That is because we have a large share of the population which has either lifetime licenses or permanent licenses and I don’t believe either are counted in the above stat. So our ranking is likely considerably above 14th when you consider how much of our population is participating but not buying the regular licenses. Of course, they still contribute to the federal monies.

Why do those opposed to hunting and trapping ignore this reality? The answer is simple really. They don’t actually care about wildlife, they just care about removing human influence from wildlife. They dislike the fact that we hunt and utilize wild game and they are perfectly willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

How do they propose to pay for wildlife management in the absence of this small community that does so much for our state? We all know too well the tax burden that comes with living in Vermont. Would we like to see higher taxes, or should we simply do away with the Fish and Wildlife department that these activists constantly malign as incompetent and biased?

They claim Vermont is undergoing a cultural shift that leaves hunting and trapping in the past and when we point out that these activities are a crucial part of the fabric of our state from both a cultural and biological perspective, we are gaslighted and told that “Vermont’s culture is evolving,” and the hunting community is somehow a relic of a bygone era and has no place in the modern world, but license sales recently reached a 30-year high.Animal rights activists misuse phrases like “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” (SGCN) as a rallying cry, but they don’t explain that many of our SCGN are abundant. Whitetail deer and snowshoe hare for instance are both classified as such. Their lack of understanding shines through when they make statements such as the assertion that the SGCN list “doesn’t even include” threatened and endangered species. It unequivocally does. 

These activists criticize our citizen Fish and Wildlife Board that is informed by biologists from the Department for not being credentialed biologists themselves (which several of them are at any given time), then in the same breath complain that wildlife management isn’t a democratic process. I submit that wildlife management MUST NOT be a democratic process, but rather MUST be guided by science and best practices; of which hunting and trapping have long played a critical role. 

These hunting opponents casually describe the Department as disregarding science because they are not catered to, and like any petulant child they lash out incessantly in hopes of getting their way. If you tell a lie often enough, people will start to believe it, correct? This seems to be the driving theory behind their approach. To violently lash out at everybody who doesn’t simply acquiesce to their ideology.

Sure, we see a never-ending stream of letters to the editor from people who carry a strong hatred of hunters, trappers, and in some cases, Vermont’s rural culture in general. If you look back through them you will find it is a handful of activists who write constantly and have nothing new to say. It is time for those of us who understand how intimately these activities are woven into the fabric of our home to start writing as well. 

Their activism takes a prejudiced tone we don’t tolerate anywhere else in society, and I question why we have tolerated it this long when directed at the hunting and wildlife management communities. 

Our fish and wildlife professionals should be freed to focus on the biological needs of our wildlife and determine how to create the best outcomes for our wildlife. Instead, they are constantly subjected to bombardment from these activists that runs the gamut from derision to threats and their time is wasted responding instead of doing the important biological work that the hunting community funds, work that benefits all species. While our biologists deal with this, leadership at the Department has taken a conciliatory posture that has only exacerbated the problem, and if it continues, Vermonters and our wildlife will be the ultimate losers. 

Mike Covey, exeutive.director of the Vermont Traditions Coalition

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