I wear the apparently incongruous labels of “bird hunter” and “conservationist,” but they do go well together. Every legal hunter participates in conservation, an odd kind of tree-hugger, by definition. Buying licenses and paying a special tax -- a tax which they themselves proposed-- hunters fund the conservation not only of game species but also of habitat, which supports non-game species and humans as well. Like most hunters, I believe that doesn’t go far enough, so I support several other habitat-specific organizations. That may be self-serving, but the alternative is unthinkable. Without hunters, funds and perhaps the will to support sustaining habitat would dry up or have to come from someplace else, and these days, people don’t seem too eager to volunteer to be taxed, even for things that benefit them directly.
I think of conservation because my love of hunting encompasses a lot of different loves. I love my quarry’s unpredictable and cunning ways, and, yes, I love to match my skill to their evasion skills. The killed bird in my hand fills me with a sobering mixture of joy, pride and sadness. I love the complex beauty of their feathering. I love preparing them, and I love sharing them with family and friends. I love everything about them. I love where they live. They thrive in cooperation with conservation-minded farming, providing a natural biological gauge of the health of the relationship between agriculture, wildlife, and food supply. So when I think of hunting, what I’m really thinking about is a conservation relationship between those three elements which sometimes seem to conflict, but which we must hold in balance.
The Identity in Balance Writing Series is all about looking at how different parts of our lives and identities intersect. If you'd like to submit a post, you can find out more about the series here.