A Right or a Privilege?

“In the United States, while the right to keep and bear arms is constitutionally assured, hunting is a privilege to be repeatedly earned, year after year, by those who hunt. It is well for hunters to remember that in a democracy, privileges, which include hunting, are maintained through the approval of the public at large. Hunting must be conducted under both laws and ethical guidelines in order to ensure this approval.”Jack Ward Thomas, 13th Chief of the U.S. Forest Service

Fourteen states have passed amendments to their constitutions making it a right for their citizens to hunt, fish and trap. It seems unnecessary that it would come to legislative action to protect these age-old outdoor traditions, but it has. Even the voters in a rural, hunting, fishing and trapping state like Montana are considering taking this same action. Why?

The game has changed. More people are making it known that they don’t like other people using, killing, or managing wildlife. These beliefs have been making their way onto state voter ballot initiatives to ban activities such as trapping on public land, the use of bait and dogs in bear and cougar hunting, or the outright ban of the hunting of these and other species altogether. A big question that remains is, will these constitutional amendments end these attacks on hunting and wildlife management, or are they just speed bumps for those looking to do away with hunting and trapping? The danger lies in believing hunting is a right that is constitutionally assured. If this were true, anti-hunting groups would have been out of business long ago.

Whether a right or a privilege where you live, we should all keep in mind that public perceptions in respect to hunting and hunters will continue to play a critical role in our future. If we—and our traditions—are viewed in a positive light, we can expect approval from others. Just as importantly, when someone is asked to vote for or against hunting or trapping, we should have our best foot forward.

 

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