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As Long as We Remember...

December 6, 2017

Taking Aim at Poaching

Brooke Winn

Last week, we saw an atrocious incident take place when a black bear was killed out-of-season in the Frederick Watershed. Once again, hunters are demonized as “psychopaths,” like they were in social media comments, blamed for the warrantless death of this innocent animal.


I, and many other hunters, absolutely oppose this disgusting and – most likely – unjustifiable reaction to a large – yet harmless – animal.


But, please don’t let one bad person who poaches define us all. As a hunter myself I feel the need to respond to some of these negative and uneducated comments.


First, to those who call me and other outdoors men and women “psychopaths,” allow me to elaborate on how unfounded this claim is, based on my experience. Most hunters will give more to environmental protection legislation, conservation projects and wildlife management in one year than what uneducated Internet trolls, ever will in their entire lifetime. And this is strictly through purchasing hunting licenses and taxes levied on outdoor sporting equipment and goods alone.


This does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars funneled into incredible grassroots-oriented, conservation-driven organizations like Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance.


There are dozens of reasons people choose to hunt. However, I know I can only speak for myself. So much of the hunt is wrapped up in the experience. It’s knowing that even during a mid-October bow hunt, if I don’t see a single deer, it’s still a beautiful day.


I get to watch the sunrise on a silent, crisp fall morning and experience the woods as it slowly comes alive. After waking up at 4 A.M., gathering my gear, trekking through the woods and making the 20-foot climb into my tree stand well before daybreak, it has already been a more peaceful morning than the quietest day in the office.


Additionally, hunting is comfort in knowing directly where my food source comes from – the most organic, naturally raised meat source around – Mother Nature.


Hunting is the furthest thing from “psychopath” one can get. In fact, the biggest factor for my love of the outdoors, specifically hunting, are the people with whom I am able to do it. And, for me, that main influential person has always been my Dad.


I can remember back to elementary school when I was tasked with the highly-anticipated “show-and-tell” assignment. Having attended private school, my classmates had a much different upbringing and background.


My dad, in all of his glory, brought in one of his beautifully mounted turkeys from one of his many hunts. While many of my classmates were showing off the latest and greatest technology, I was absolutely mortified to have to explain what I thought were my father’s unusual habits to the class.


After stumbling through my Dad’s speech he had helped me prep, I realized most of my classmates were absolutely enthralled. Many had never been exposed to this sport before in their lives, nor would they ever.


It wasn’t until years later I finally understood and truly appreciated the hunting principles and ethics my Dad had instilled in me: the practice, patience and respect for all aspects and areas of the hunt and the harvest of an animal.


But back to bear poaching. Scattered among the mix of other social media commentary were comments from those claiming to have hunted the Frederick Watershed area who were ready to shoot bears that approached them during their hunts.


I challenge those who fit into this category to do the following: educate yourself. Understand the behaviors of the animals that you are not only hunting, but additional animals you could potentially encounter on your hunt.


Last year, my husband, Josh, was approached by what appears to have been the same large black bear that was poached. Josh was even able to capture him on video from his ground blind, as the bear playfully rolled around in the leaves and batted at foliage.


Over the course of a half hour, the bear slowly moved closer to Josh – until he was within five yards. My husband, having travelled to Alaska dozens of times, knew that black bears, for the most part, are non-aggressive creatures. Josh slowly stood up, making his presence known to the bear, who slowly retreated back into the woods.


The moral of the story is this: we owe it to the animals we will – and may – encounter in the woods, to learn their behavior and know how to properly react. If all hunters were willing to invest time to educate themselves, we probably would not have seen the sickening picture of a dead bear shot in the head plastered across our Facebook newsfeeds last week.


Any ethical hunter will think it absolutely heartbreaking and disgusting to have witnessed this animal’s unwarranted death in the Frederick Watershed. We, as hunters, stand for much deeper principles and respect for the wildlife than the credit some give us.


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