Sportsmen are the ‘mine canaries’ of our environment

Although last fall’s deer hunting season is old news, there was a surprising number of hunters who agreed that they saw far fewer deer in the areas they hunted – areas where in previous years they saw larger numbers of deer. While acorn, mast and other primary deer foodstuff availability can be a factor in deer density changes in any given area, modifications in the overall habitat characteristics should never be underestimated as another factor.

Teddy Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, John Audubon, Jim Corbett. What do all these men have in common? They are recognized as the greatest conservationists this country– and perhaps the world – has ever known. Another thing they had in common was they were all hunters. Unknown by many people today is the fact that Audubon was an avid hunter, and like the others, also had a deep appreciation and concern for conservation and wildlife. In his later writings he sounded the alarm about destruction of birds and habitats during a time when there were no laws to conserve wildlife or habitat.

Although as a society we have drifted increasingly farther away from our roots and ties to the outdoors as urban and suburban populations grew, many avid hunters and sportsmen still spend sufficient time there to be the “mine canaries” (canaries were often used in old mines to detect poisonous gases) when they observe negative changes occurring in our natural world beyond the city limits. Almost to a man or woman, they agree that the biggest threat is destruction of habitat, displaced or replaced by residential and commercial development. If the four men mentioned above were alive today, you can bet they would be alarmed at the direction our nation is going in regards to land development displacing or modifying habitat.

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