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I think I was at Florida State when I first realized there are people who not only don’t hunt, but who also don’t want me to either. That was shocking to me as a guy from Blountstown for whom opening day was almost as important as Christmas.
I learned this one fine day when my roommate – an otherwise normal guy from Jacksonville – nearly had a fit when I told him I killed a deer the day before. He wasn’t a vegetarian or even a real animal lover. He just didn’t like the idea of someone killing an animal for “sport.” After arguing for most of a case of beer, we finally agreed that he should never hunt and that I would never stop.
Unfortunately, he was just the first of many people over the years who would try to tell me and others that killing animals is wrong. The past quarter century has seen a powerful effort to get people to stop eating meat. Organizations like PETA and other anti-hunting groups have grown in popularity. And of course, Hollywood has continued to portray hunters as evil, sadistic caricatures of themselves. (Seriously, when was the last time you saw a hunter as the hero in a movie?)
While the famous and fabulous are celebrating, however, a new trend is emerging among the masses. Hunting is quietly growing in popularity, which I’m sure would be shocking on its own. But it’s the “who” and “why” that might ought to concern the celebrity class most of all.
First, women are taking up the sport in record numbers. And not just in rural America. Suburban housewives – soccer moms – are discovering the satisfaction of “bringing home the bacon” in the literal sense. They don’t want to stay confined to tennis courts and golf courses — their “acceptable” places of recreation. And they don’t want to experience nature at arm’s length anymore. In fact, USA Today reported that the number of women hunting with guns increased by 50 percent (from 2 million to 3 million) between 2004 and 2009.
That’s a lot of women in the woods and it means a key demographic is no longer buying what the anti crowd is selling. Specifically, it means they have rejected the whole “hunting is cruelty” argument because they understand that a bullet or an arrow is perhaps the most humane way any animal can die. As rational, thinking people, they understand that nature often writes a much darker ending to the story.
Another group of new hunters is coming from the ranks of younger, health-conscious people (men and women) who are concerned about the quality of the meat from giant processing operations. Many are couples with young children who may be on the bike trail one day and trailing a buck the next. Wary of hormones, chemicals and contamination, they realize that wild animals are the ultimate free-range food. And by doing the cleaning and butchering themselves, they eliminate worries over the processing.
The wonderful irony here is that most of these worries were inspired in part by . . . wait for it . . . PETA and groups like it. Their relentless campaigning against “factory farms” and feed lots have in fact had an impact, just not quite the one they wanted. Instead of becoming vegetarians or vegans, a lot of people are simply taking to the woods and waters like their ancestors did.
Interestingly, the newly converted include a substantial number of environmentalists who recognize that hunting is critical to maintaining healthy animal populations and to funding broader conservation efforts. They didn’t learn wildlife biology from Walt Disney and they know that humans have an important position in the food chain.
What should be worrying to PETA-philes is that these are the very types of people the anti-hunting crowd and the entertainment community count on to fund their causes, watch their movies and buy their music. But while the celebutards are preaching to what’s left of the choir, a lot of their congregation is seeking truth elsewhere: Specifically, in the woods with a gun or bow in their hands.
This doesn’t surprise me in the least. Celebrities and activists would have you believe they are principled individuals who are unafraid to take bold stands. In reality they are mostly desperate attention-seekers who live in fear of being forgotten. Many are constantly in search of a “meaningful cause” they can be associated with, one that will preserve their popularity among fickle fans.
The good news is that real trendsetters in life aren’t the richest movie stars or the most obnoxious protesters. They are usually just people who live their lives based on common sense and make educated decisions about what’s best for them. Those of us who were raised as hunters and fishermen ought to be thankful that our parents and grandparents figured that out long ago.
We didn’t take up the sport because a celebrity told us it was cool and we didn’t stop because an activist said it was bad. Now, a new generation is rediscovering what their ancestors knew all along: Wild game and fresh-caught fish are good for the body. And the process of killing and catching them yourself is good for the soul.
I guess hunting is becoming hip now. I just wonder how long it will be before Hollywood catches on.