Our Bill of Rights
"You're going to get up at 4 in the morning and sit all day in the cold woods just to shoot Bambi?" she asked.
My refusal to hide the fact that I enjoy hunting and fishing probably subjects me to more than the usual amount of pestering by people who have designated themselves to represent the interests of all other species.
Is pestering too strong a word? I don't think so. Many people who don't like hunting or fishing rely on in-your-face challenges to make their case. They even describe themselves as agitating for their cause. What is their cause? They want to make you and me stop pursuing and harvesting other animals.
They have a right to agitate and pester, of course, but I have rights, too. For example, it was my right to ignore the badgering of that woman at the dinner party. I'm never reluctant to spend words rhapsodizing over the wonders of the woods or the excitement of the chase-hunting, fishing or trapping-but she wasn't waiting to be convinced. Instead, she was baiting me, trying to get me to explain my actions, to put me on the defensive.
She also has a right to do that, of course, but I didn't have to allow her her tactics.
"It's what I do," I said firmly and conclusively, and I repeated it when she complained that hunting was too barbaric for this day and age. She finally quit the exchange when she realized that she wasn't going to get any more response from me than that simple mantra.
Saying "It's what I do" felt good. It affirmed my instinctual commitment to hunting and fishing, and it kept me from the impossible chore of convincing her of how neat it is to be outdoors. I knew that trying to get her to understand the joy I experience when sitting in a deer stand or motoring up a mist-shrouded river would be as impossible as explaining why I like sauerkraut. "It's what I eat," I might finally have to say.
Hunters and anglers don't have to justify their actions and motivations to the enemies of those sports. We might better save our explanations and soul searching reflections for those who might be affected by our words.
Let us quietly and firmly insist on our right to enjoy our legitimate sports. We have other rights, too, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to list some of them. A bill of rights for anglers, hunters and other outdoorspeople might include:
- We have the right to act instinctively, following to hunt and fish.
- We have the right to introduce our children, friends and acquaintances to the joys of the outdoor world.
- We have the right to revel in our success and in the good fortunes or skills of other hunters and anglers.
- We have the right to preserve and manage the species that we pursue.
- We have the right to support programs, groups, government agencies and lawmakers that work to protect our rights.
- We have the right to enjoy the company and exploits of fellow hunters and anglers.
- We have the right to expect other hunters and anglers to adhere to the laws and traditions of our sport.
- We have the right to feel proud of our connection to the outdoors.
- We have the right to thoroughly enjoy our outdoor activities and to savor the wild meats that we harvest.
- We have the right to answer detractors of hunting, fishing and trapping with a simple, "It's what I do."