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Wait, You Can be a Hunter & a Conservationist??

If we were to play a game of word association starting with my name, I’m sure at some point (if not in the first 5 seconds) someone would say nature, wildlife, or the environment. Most people who know me are extremely aware of the fact that I am a conservationist—a person that advocates for the preservation and protection of the environment/nature. I recycle, carry my own utensils, religiously drink from a reusable water bottle, and do my best to not create unnecessary waste. I graduated with a biology degree focusing on ecology and evolutionary studies. One of my goals is to be hired by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. When I say I care about the environment, I mean it.

But if you were to pay enough attention, you would also know that I hunt.

I know, I know. When most people hear both of these personal facts, they become visibly confused. “How can you love the environment when you hunt?” “I thought you were supposed to be saving animals, but you’re killing them.”

I’ve heard it all before. These two ways of life seem to be in opposition to one another, but in reality, they are not.

Let me first start off by saying that the image you probably have in your mind about hunting is not at all what the practice is actually like. When a lot of people think of hunting, they think of people going to Africa to shoot giraffes and endangered species just to stuff and put them on display in their houses. They see wasteful, trigger-happy poachers who enjoy taking the life out of creatures. While there are no doubt some people out there who are like that, they are the minority, and most real hunters can’t stand the image that they paint of us.

Most people don’t know that there is an extensive process to hunting which includes licenses, safety classes, fees, and so much more. As far as “hobbies” are concerned, it can become a very expensive one. The rules and regulations for hunting also vary throughout the country, changing based on the health and status of populations.

So if I am so pro-saving the animals, how am I able to hunt them? The answer is simple. I can be a conservationist and hunter because hunting is conservation.

Let me prove it to you:

  • Hunting is the #1 funder for habitat restoration and management programs

Due to the “Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act,” any time someone buys a hunting license, hunting tag, ammunition, firearms, or anything to do with outdoor recreation, part of that revenue goes toward conservation (conservation projects, hunter education, outdoor recreation access, habitat management). There is also a duck stamp that is required for waterfowl hunting, and anytime someone purchases a stamp, 98% of the profit goes towards conservation efforts.

  • Promotes anti-poaching

In order to get a hunting license, you have to take a hunter’s education license. This class talks about everything from gun safety to actual hunting regulations. One of the things it highlights is “anti-poaching.” Poaching is the act of hunting/killing animals illegally, i.e., hunting without a license or killing any game animal without the proper tags. Game wardens are responsible for enforcing these rules and will fine you or even take away your hunting license if you violate the rules.

  • Land conservation

Simply put, hunters value the great outdoors and want to make sure that their kids and grandkids will be able to experience nature as they have. You cannot pass on a love for nature and harvesting your own food if there is no land left. So naturally, hunters value conserving land; especially the habitat of whatever game animal they prefer to hunt.

  • Population & Disease control

Any person who studies animals or even people knows that with higher densities of individuals in the area, the chance for disease to spread increases. Hunting helps to control animal population sizes. In the western US, state governments only give out a certain number of hunting tags. This ensures that instead of having the whole state of Nevada hunting deer in one season, you have maybe 200 people that have been permitted to go out and harvest a deer. I completely made up that number, but state governments monitor animal populations and give out only as many tags as the population can sustainably handle.

  • Many early conservationists were hunters

Having studied ecology in college, I have found that many of the founding ecologists, conservationists, and environmentalists were hunters. They were people that appreciated nature both for its beauty and for its ability to provide sustenance for their families. They wanted to do all they could to care for the land that cared for them.

Theodore Roosevelt (yes, the former president), was a hunter and founded the National Wildlife Refuge System for the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Another former president, Woodrow Wilson is responsible for the beloved national parks you may love to visit. In 1916, he signed an act to create the federal bureau of the National Park Service.

On a personal level, I find that I am much more appreciative and conservative with the food I eat because of hunting. Any time I cook with deer or elk, I am reminded of the blood, sweat, tears, money, and time I have put in to harvest. The food tastes better because I know where it came from and I had a hand in bringing it to my table.

Storytime: Hunting has had such a huge role in my life that up until a few years ago, I didn't even know how much meat cost in the stores. My mom sent me to the store to get some ground turkey (why, idk). When I came home, I proudly handed my mom the package, having completed my task. When she looked down at the receipt, she was shocked to see that I had paid way too much money for two pounds of ground turkey. I would have never even known that I had done anything wrong. Why? Because I had never ever personally bought any type of ground meat from the store. I mean, why would I when I have a freezer full of ground venison at the house?

In my family, we are not hunting just for kicks and giggles. We are hunting to bring food to our table. We are hunting because it is part of our lives. It’s also cool to know that I am still holding onto an ancient practice that people have been doing for eons to survive. They did not have stores and fast food restaurants. If they did not hunt (or grow food themselves), they did not eat. Hunting makes me feel close to my ancestors.

I do want to mention that there are some people out there who don’t believe that hunting is conservation. Some say that hunting can help regulate populations, but that there is no concrete evidence that they actually conserve species or have ever stopped an extinction. Still, others point out that many of the hunting dollars only go towards “game species'' like deer and waterfowl, instead of endangered species.

But it can also be argued that regardless of which animal the money is targeted at, it still benefits the other animals around it. In order to protect deer populations, you have to protect their environments. And deer obviously do not live in a vacuum…by protecting their habitat, you are protecting the habit of many other animals.

Sure some of the “hunting is conservation” sentiments are based on the idea that “we have to save nature and animals so that we can have animals to hunt…” but in the end, it gets the job done. Even if people are only caring about animals so they can hunt more animals, the bottom line is that habitat is still being protected.

You are obviously free to form your own opinions about the topic, but I just wanted to show a side of hunters that people so often overlook.

As a scientist, I encourage everyone to do their own research. Below, I have included some of the sources I used to back this blog post, but if you feel they are too biased, you are more than welcome to find some sources of your own!




Decker, D. J., Stedman, R. C., Larson, L. R., & Siemer, W. F. (2015). Hunting for wildlife management in America. The Wildlife Professional, 9(1), 26-29

Heffelfinger, J. R., Geist, V., & Wishart, W. (2013). The role of hunting in North American wildlife conservation. International Journal of Environmental Studies, 70(3), 399-413.


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