The war on hunting never seems to end, and Wisconsin is the latest battleground. The state’s Department of Natural Resources passed a ban on nighttime deer hunting back in 1991, which was upheld by a federal judge. The Chippewa Indian Nation filed a lawsuit in 2012 to get the ban overturned, and the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeal agreed with them, citing more advanced optics (including night vision) that make evening hunts safer. The U.S. Supreme Court recently denied certiorari and now the case goes back to semi-retired judge Barbara Crabb, who originally upheld the ban 24 years earlier.
It seems only negative news is disseminated when it comes to hunting. But the fact is hunters do more for communities than they get credit for. Hunting enthusiasts should take it upon themselves to act as ambassadors of the sport at all times. Here are three ways you can give back.
Some hunters have freezers full of venison already or simply hunt deer and other game for the trophies. These hunters have the opportunity to directly help their communities.
American hunters donated almost 3 million pounds of meat to food banks and shelters in 2010, which translated to 11 million meals for the hungry, according to The National Shooting Sports Foundation. Local churches and other missions will accept meat donations if you call in advance.
Hunters for the Hungry is a nonprofit that gets much of its funding from the National Rifle Association. There are chapters in 43 states that accept your donations. Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry is another national organization that takes donations.
The United States Department of Agriculture estimates the total feral swine (aka wild pig) population to be well over 5 million, with the highest concentrations in California, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas. The problems these animals bring to communities are numerous.
Wild pigs can transmit pseudo-rabies to domesticated dogs and cats as well as farm animals like sheep, cattle and goats. They also carry another 30 diseases and 37 parasites that can be transmitted to humans and other animals. Beyond diseases and filth, feral swine wreak havoc on crops. The USDA estimates feral swine cause upward of $1.5 in damages to U.S. farms and waterways. The problems are particularly pronounced in the Lone Star State. Mark Tyson, of Texas A & M University’s AgriLife Extension Service, estimates the state is home to at least half of all wild hogs in the lower 48.
Most states allow year-round wild hog hunting to help control their populations. Hog hunting parties are also prevalent in some states. They provide hunters real-life target practice while doing the community a favor. And believe it or not, the meat tastes great. You can donate it to local food banks or keep it for yourself. Use a smoker for tender, tasty cooking if keeping it for yourself (or feeding the neighborhood).
It’s recommended you gut wild hogs as soon as they die, skin them before processing and pack them in ice during transport. Thoroughly check the anal cavity, liver and kidneys for discoloration and other signs of disease. As with fish, avoid eating really large wild pigs. They smell bad and sometime have a funky taste.
A vast majority of state and municipal conservation efforts are funded by the fees you pay for hunting licenses, tags and stamps. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates $200 million in hunter excise taxes are collected and distributed to wildlife management agencies every year. Granted, most hunters are conservatives, and some believe license fees, taxes, etc., are government overreach. But keep in mind you are helping your state buy refuges, keep lakes stocked with fish and fund hunter safety courses.
It’s your individual responsibility to help reinforce and disseminate all the good services hunters provide to communities. Do your small part to ensure hunters in general get the credit they deserve.