For the past week the roads have been clogged with pickups and trailers loaded down with four-wheelers and other hunting paraphernalia. The restaurants were full of people wearing camouflage clothes this past weekend, and there were actually lines of vehicles, a few times, at local gas pumps. The unmistakable signs of fall in the Texas Hill Country are upon us.
My wife and I went out to eat Saturday night, and sat at a table adjacent to a group of men and boys wearing camo. One little guy, probably eight or ten years old, had on camo overalls, shirt, and boots, and seemed to be in a particularly good mood. He looked my way at one point, so I caught his eye and said, “Did you kill a deer today?”
His mouth was extremely full, so he nodded. I smiled at him and said, “How big was it?”
He swallowed and said, “A ten-point.” His dad turned around and smiled at me, but didn’t say anything. The kid was having a special day, and deserved to deliver the news himself.
The future of hunting in America is uncertain, despite the claims of the anti-gun crowd who say they don’t intend to ever ban guns used for hunting. It may not be long before little guys like the one in the restaurant won’t have the opportunity to go on hunting trips with their fathers. The decisions Americans make, and the votes they cast, during the next several years could ensure the future of hunting for coming generations, or relegate our hunting heritage to historical footnote status.
This is hard for most people to accept. It doesn’t seem possible that hunting could eventually be banned, since without it wildlife would have small chance of survival. Those who realize the value of hunting to wildlife, and therefore have common sense, sometimes have trouble understanding that others have none, and therefore would doom the wildlife they purport to protect.
For example, I have in front of me a copy of TIME magazine dated 3 April 2006. The cover shows a polar bear standing on a small ice floe surrounded by water. The caption says “Be worried. Be very worried.” The cover story warns that climate change is going to ruin the planet. It claims “polar bears are drowning as warmer waters widen the distance from floe to floe.”
The story claims the poles are melting like Blue Bell in July, and Greenland is disappearing at an exponential rate. Since this story is more than 30 months old, one can only assume the problem has been solved, unless you’re using a snorkel to peruse this column.
At one point, TIME claims, “According to NASA scientists, 2005 was one of the hottest years in more than a century.” Since then, I guess, things must have cooled considerably, because 2008 NASA satellite photos show the polar ice growing. The Antarctic ice cap is now, according to NASA, larger than ever before recorded. In fact, the photos show that, between August 2007 and August 2008, the Arctic ice cap grew anywhere from 10 to 30 percent. Whew. I feel a lot better now.
But our point here was specie, if you’ll recall, and a major species in question is Ursus maritimus, commonly known as the polar bear. On 14 May 2008 the U.S. Dept. of the Interior officially listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. So, obviously, there aren’t many polar bears left, right?
Wrong. Experts estimate that, 60 years ago, there were about 5,000 polar bears in existence. At this writing experts claim there are about 25,000 of them. Which means that, during the past six decades, while hunting polar bears has been legal, they have thrived. Thriven? They’ve multiplied, in other words. Times five, to be exact.
Now, let me tell you what’s going to happen. During the next few years the bears will proliferate. Then their numbers will level off and start to drop. Over the next 20 years, while killing polar bears is illegal, their population will decline. This will be due to several factors, including lack of adequate food supply (some years), disease (while there are still a lot of them), and genetic problems.
This drop in polar bear numbers will be attributed to other problems by preservationists looking for excuses to keep the hunters at bay. One of these supposed problems will be illegal hunting. There will be some of that, but it will be miniscule compared to the real issues. It’s possible the bears will remain on the threatened list long enough that they will actually qualify for it.
This is a shame, because somewhere in Alaska there is a kid with some white camo clothes who wants to go polar bear hunting with his dad. Now, because idiots protect these abundant, robust creatures, he can’t.
The cover of the 3 April 2006 TIME magazine contains good advice. We should be very worried about the lies the liberal media prints...
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who doesn’t subscribe to TIME. He swiped it from a doctor’s waiting room. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org