Respecting Diversity in Hunting

April 2, 2009 by  

By Mike Taddy

As the hot summer days begin to fade away, the increased anxiousness and irritableness of the waterfowler is the one certainty that exists in the North Dakota hunting world. Now, before you go on the defensive because you

’re a waterfowler, please take time to read this with an open mind.
North Dakota and the surrounding Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) provide abundant opportunities for the hardcore and casual waterfowler. Additionally, the state sees a dramatic influx of non-residents during the fall who travel to North Dakota to pursue those ample opportunities, whether that’s through freelancing (scouting, calling, and decoying yourself) or paying a guide/outfitter. It is usually at this point, where the passion of some North Dakota waterfowlers comes out and the conversation can turn “heated.” For those of you unaware of the discussion, some feel guides and outfitters are tainting the tradition of hunting. Further, many resident North Dakota sportsmen feel paying to hunt is unnecessary in the state because of the abundance of private land access. From the opposing side, others feel guides and outfitters have the right to pursue free enterprise. They too are operating within the legal limits of the law and reserve the right to provide a living for their families. However, I don’t strive to justify or rationalize this argument. Rather, as hunting season quickly approaches, I hope to provide a reminder to all sportsmen to be thankful for our outdoor opportunities.

It’s important to note that just because we share a passion for waterfowling, that doesn’t necessitate everyone agrees on all issues, nor should we avoid progressive discussion in relation to “hot button” items. Additionally, each hunter possesses personal and moral beliefs they take with them to the field. It’s obvious to state not all waterfowlers share those same beliefs. For example, an ever-increasing amount of hunters choose to avoid hunting roosts. According to Chris Hustad of Nodak Outdoors E-Magazine, the roost is classified as an open-water rest area in a relatively hard to reach location that ducks and geese use for resting. Hunters choose to avoid hunting roosts in exchange for hunting ducks and geese in fields and small potholes. This thought process is driven from the concept waterfowl will remain longer in an area provided an opportunity to rest without harassment where they roost. As with any discussion, opinions lie on both sides and those on the opposing side see opportunities to pursue waterfowl in densely populated areas. Further, for many, hunting over a water decoy spread is carrying on traditions of generations gone-by. As stated in reference to freelancing and paying to hunt, I’m not writing to convince you one way or the other.

Both of the aforementioned discussions often turn heated and personal because of conflicting beliefs. Again, just because we don’t agree doesn’t mean we should avoid productive conversation. However, it’s important to remember everyone is entitled to hunt in any way they please as long as it is legal. On the contrary to the “legalities” of hunting, lie those beliefs of each hunter. The term “ethical hunting” is one that will bring multiple definitions from different people. What I see as ethical, is something another hunter may deem as unethical. I believe we all understand every hunter will not agree on all issues. As with any discussion, it’s imperative to remain open-minded and courteous. Personal attacks only prove to serve as a tactic that will cause others to lose respect for you. That is unfortunate because a waterfowler, no matter the side of the discussion they’re on, may provide great insight and knowledge only to be lost because they resort to name-calling or other belligerent tactics. In specific relation to North Dakota, often these discussions turn into resident versus non-resident arguments. The issue of residency in relation to North Dakota waterfowling is one that will not soon go away. Whether the topic is zone restrictions or hunting styles, debates will forge on for years to come.

As Americans, we should be thankful we are allowed to have these discussions and possess our own opinions. Further, we should appreciate everyone is not like each other and remember we are a product of our hunting history. We eagerly accept diversity in employment, relationships, and other areas. Hunting is not really entirely different with the exception of regulations. I’m not saying we have to like, or even accept others’ hunting styles and views. Rather, I’m saying differing opinions and styles bring about new ideas, tactics, and opinions. When faced with a conflicting opinion or view, it’s important not to project your morals and beliefs upon the other person. The view in relation to the relevant topic always depends upon where you’re standing. We can disagree with others on issues, but respect is still paramount. If faced with an adverse situation, such as a hostile confrontation in the field or over an Internet forum, be the “bigger” person and don’t lower yourself to the other’s level.

Another important item to remember is the impression we leave on youth hunters. In a sport that sees numbers declining, we have to do our best to encourage and foster the interest of youth hunters. Exposing them to useless rants and personal attacks will only lead them to either avoid hunting or carry that same mentality forward. When confronted with a situation you may not agree with, be sure to thoroughly explain to youths why you disagree. Don’t just yell an obscenity at someone and call them names. What kind of example is that? The youth will preserve today’s hunting tradition in tomorrow’s ever-changing political world. We need to equip them with the knowledge and experiences that will help our sport grow in the face of increased firearm and hunting legislation.

Finally, a delicate balance lies between our passion for our sport and placing our own morals and values on others. As a waterfowler and steward for our sport, it is our responsibility to discover that balance and ensure our personal beliefs don’t prohibit us from fostering progressive discussion and relationships. Who knows, you may learn something from the opposing side!

Good Huntin’


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