As I look at all of the hunts available to sportsmen in Nevada, I can’t help but think about some of the words that we use to describe our activities. Hunt, pursue, harvest, opportunity, kill, and conservation: what does our word choice tell us about our actions?
The terms hunt and harvest are not synonymous. Hunting is an activity that we engage in so that we might reap the harvest of our natural resources. Harvest is designed to either take from a surplus portion of the population that does not reduce the overall population, or, in some cases limits the population at levels which do not harm the habitats upon which the wildlife depends. As hunters know, the opportunity to participate in a hunt is no guarantee of a harvest.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife formulates recommendations for hunting opportunities based on scientific surveys and analyses that are carefully considered by the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners, County Advisory Boards to Manage Wildlife, wildlife conservation organizations, and the general public through public meetings before the Commission ultimately renders the final decisions. It is a public process with honest debate worthy of the public trust.
Opportunity to get in the field and enjoy a connection with our natural resources not only provides the funding critical for conservation but also helps maintain the relevancy of conservation. Opportunity means different things to different people. It can mean a long-awaited chance to pursue an older age class buck, bull, or ram for which you may have been applying, sometimes for more than a decade. For others, opportunity can simply be a chance to hunt so that they might harvest free-range, additive-free, locally-grown, healthy lean protein for their freezer and family. Others yet may simply seek a reason to spend time in the outdoors with family and friends, or taking a solitary hike, watching and enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of our natural resources.
If you hunt, you cannot do so without contemplating the possibility that as you hunt you may ultimately kill an animal. The hunters I know don’t hunt for the kill, however, that kill is an inseparable part of this activity. Not every hunt results in a kill and not every hunter kills. When we do, we have a responsibility to ensure that we do so cleanly, effectively, and ethically. Hunters are judged by our behavior, our treatment of the animal, how we treat those that might disagree with us about our decision to hunt, and our ability to prepare and share the food that our harvest and kill provides. It is important that we treat our harvest and each other with the respect that reflects positively on us all!
This opportunity and activity is what connects us with conservation. Hunters share a deep connection with wildlife. Hunting connects us with the conservation of wildlife resources, as does wildlife viewing and photography. The more people are connected with wildlife, the more stable and certain the future of our wildlife becomes. If others are not connected with wildlife, conservation becomes less relevant and we all lose our cherished opportunities in the outdoor world that means so much to us. Efforts to recruit, retain, and reactivate those who value wild animals in wild places are essential to the future of conservation.
Enjoy your opportunities to connect with conservation this year. Take a friend with you. Share your harvest. Treat others and your hunt with respect, and be an ethical hunter. In the words of Aldo Leopold, “Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching — even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”
Tony Wasley, Director