Like It Or Not, Hunting Is Actually The Best Way To Conserve Wildlife

A deer with antlers in a field

People shooting and eating animals and the financial structure surrounding the entire process of hunting is actually the very foundation of the most scientifically sound wildlife conservation efforts on Earth.

Especially in North America.

For this fact of life to make any sense, it’s important to separate the idea of individual animals from the concept of entire species.

For example, yes, hunting may lead to the ultimate demise of an individual deer that gets shot by a hunter. But collectively, deer hunting is a financial force that ecologically benefits and financially supports the very long term conservation of the deer population on a continental scale.

The idea of shooting an animal to conserve the species for the future can seem counterintuitive, and with a lower percentage of the American population hunting now than at pretty much any time in history, that notion is being challenged more and more these days.

It’s an issue that was recently outlined by the esteemed outdoor writer Chris Dorsey in his recent column in Forbes.

The article conveys the point that hunting, the most time honored traditions in the history of modern outdoor recreation history, is also the largest financial driver and guiding force for wildlife conservation efforts in history.

It’s a story more people need to know. Its a story built on the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt who is credited with one of the most impactful quotes about wildlife conservation of all time.

“In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. The excellent people who protest against all hunting and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife, are ignorant of the fact that in reality the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.”

Let’s start this chapter of that story in 1937.

The dust bowl was in full swing and it was decimating habitat and wildlife populations across the heartland of America. Wildlife populations were already struggling across the continent since hunting regulations and harvest limits were still novel concepts instead of national norms at the time.

In addition to generating money through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, the sportsmen’s community rallied together and petitioned Congress to create an 11% on the sale of firearms and ammunition to fund the conservation of critical wildlife habitat across the nation.

Its perhaps the only instance in American history where a large group of people banded together to lobby the federal government in favor of taxing them more.

But since Congress enacted those taxes in 1937, the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund has totaled more than $14 billion in direct contributions to wildlife conservation efforts.

At about the same time, a group of waterfowl hunters formed an organization called Ducks Unlimited with a goal of fundraising money from their fellow duck hunters and sending it north to fund conservation projects in Canada, the region where most of the ducks that migrate through the U.S. reproduce more ducks.

Since then, DU has generated more than $5.4 billion dollars and conserved 15 million acres of habitat for hundreds of species of birds and other wildlife. In a similar sense, innumerable other organizations followed suit and set a pattern for conservation groups lead by hunters to carry the torch for conserving America’s wild places and wild things.

Americans annually contribute more than $400 million to private conservation organizations, and those donations turn directly into habitat projects on the ground that make a tangible impact in conserving fish and wildlife. Thats on top of the $14 billion that the firearms and ammunition industry has pumped out for conservation efforts.

All of that money is used to leverage the hundreds of millions of dollars annually paid in fees for hunting and fishing licenses and tags.

Beyond buying a hunting or fishing license, the next best thing to do is by  joining one of these 12 groups to join if genuinely want to support wildlife conservation.

Another great way to tangibly support wildlife conservation is purchase your 2021 Duck Stamp

Waterfowl hunters in all 50 states are legally required to annually purchase a specific $25 stamp from the federal post office, funds from which go towards waterfowl conservation. Since the duck stamp program was introduced in 1934 it has generated more than $1 billion and has helped fund the conservation of more than 6 million acres managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System

The full force of the hunting communities conservation efforts extend beyond just the aforementioned governmental and organizational funding processes though.

Hunters across America also pump billions more of their own dollars into private lands management, creating and restoring wetlands, replanting forests, renewing shelter belts and corridors, planting food plots, constructing nest boxes and hen houses, and bringing their powerful voice the halls of government to advocate for sound conservation legislation, policies, and regulations.

So this fall, when roughly 15 million hunters across the country step outside and into the fields, marshes, and woodlands this fall to renew a bond with the natural world and fill their freezers,  its important to keep in mind everything the hunting community has tangibly contributed to the conservation of America’s wild places and wild things.

And maybe think of that before you get outraged by the picture of somebody with an animal they shot. Theres way more to the story than just those pictures.

Legal and regulated hunting is without a doubt the best possible system continuing to conserve America’s wild places and wild things into the future as well, so with fall in full swing now is the time to get outside to do some duck, deer, dove, or squirrel hunting.

Whiskey mixes well with a lot of things but bow and arrows ain’t one of them. Please hunt responsibly and save the whiskey for the campfire. 





A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock