(Editor’s note: Every hunter enjoys a benefit of Safari Club International whether he or she is actually a member, or not. SCI’s hunter advocacy efforts protect the freedom to hunt – the freedom of all hunters to hunt. Absent SCI and its efforts on behalf of hunters and true conservation of wildlife, the hunting of any animals anywhere in the world will cease. But these efforts come at a cost. SCI’s litigators, lobbyists and policy advocates cannot operate without the support of the community they represent. Support, in the form of participation in meetings, comment letters, sworn statements and financial contributions are essential to SCI’s success. At the very least, membership in SCI helps us advocate for our interests. When SCI representatives go to Congress, to Court, to the federal and state agencies, we commence our statements, testimony and comment letters with a declaration of the size of our membership. The larger the constituency we can demonstrate, the more influential our voice sounds to those we seek to persuade. Our voice needs financial resources to adequately amplify our message. Your financial contribution can make the difference. To echo a former U.S. president, the operative question is not: What can SCI do for me? Rather, it should be: What can I do to for SCI? That’s easy: Whatever you can to support our efforts. Because, by supporting the one organization that is engaged worldwide in preservation of both the hunt and the hunter, one supports and defends the individual right to hunt anywhere and everywhere – especially close to home for local species. It is that simple. SCI is out-front as the leader. Now is the time for all hunters to join the cause.)
In the end it is about HUNTING, not geographic location or specific species.
As a youngster living in the Midwest in the late 1940s and early 1950s, I tracked through the snow and into the woods with my trusty Stevens Favorite .22 single-shot rifle where I imagined the big fox squirrels in the trees to be leopards in Africa. The Stevens Favorite, I imagined, was actually an ornately engraved Farquharson single-shot chambered for some big express cartridge.
Those were pure youthful fantasies. Photos in National Geographic magazine and the very few hunting books extant in the community at the time were all there was to trigger such imagination. Older folks in that region, hit hard by a combination of the Great Depression and a world war, simply would not have, could not have, believed that anyone from around there actually be able to hunt big game in Africa. Hunting was for putting food on the table. “Sport hunting” was not yet in our lexicon.
Gasoline stations in the area also carried a small selection of ammunition, usually displayed above the soda pop cooler and next to the candy bars on the back wall across from the shelves with a few cans of oil, a couple of fan belts and a radiator cap or two. They sold ammo by the box or individual round. I would go along the local “highway” and pick up discarded beer and soft drink bottles and take them to the gas station where I “bartered” the two-cents-per-bottle value for however many rounds of ammo the bottles from that day would buy – sometimes two or three rounds, sometimes more. Never a full box at once. I cherished every round as if it were my last.
At the time I knew of no one who had hunted out of state, let alone internationally. Nobody did. So as vivid as my imagination may have been at that time, it was beyond “possible” that I might ever go to Africa and hunt there. But the dream was real despite polite chuckles and at times outright ridicule when I suggested to local folks that someday I would hunt big animals in far away places.
Many years and a bunch of countries and continents later, it all did become true for me. The fascinating thing is that the original dream actually wasn’t as far-fetched as I might have imagined back then. At issue now is the question: will youngsters in future generations be able to realize their dreams? Will the young squirrel hunter with a .22 rimfire today be precluded from ever knowing the joys and fulfillment of an African safari, a hunt for roe deer from a high seat in Europe, or a bird bonanza in South America? Or will hunters, like mythical dragon-slayers, be relegated to history and folklore? Do the dreams die here? Now?
I can attest that the squirrel, rabbit, pheasant and quail hunting I did in those days was every bit as important to me then as is the hunting for any other species on the planet now. Over the years, it has been obvious that WHAT one hunts becomes less important than THAT one hunts. HOW one hunts takes on more and more meaning the one gets older. Absent the ability to hunt, all such considerations become moot.
Through my many years of hunting I have learned that all hunting is local – it is just that sometimes one has to go a long way to get to that locality. All hunting is local to the place where it happens, regardless how close to home or remote that place may be in the world. Hunters, no matter where they are born or travel to, all have this in common. Each year a fair number of hunters from Europe venture to North America to hunt the wild turkey on its native ground. Each year a fair number of hunters from North America go to other continents to hunt animals in those places – on their native ground. Hunting is global.
Local or exotic, domestic or international, hunting everywhere shares a common threat: anti-hunting efforts. Anti-hunting efforts are global, so their victories anywhere make them more powerful everywhere. When we lose a hunting opportunity in one place, it has an impact on all hunters. Anti-hunters are working against hunting by targeting certain species, types of hunting, types of ammunition and even entire countries. We, as hunters, are in the crosshairs of the anti-hunting groups. Literally, they want to make us an extinct subspecies.
Anti-hunters are akin to a pack of wolves, circling their prey and attempting to pick off the outlying individuals before moving in for the big kill. Yes, they want to kill hunting – all hunting everywhere – the entire pack. Attacks are becoming more frequent and intense as the well organized and well-funded anti-hunting interests expand their scope and reach.
If successful in far-away lands over species that most hunters will never hunt, the antis then will come ashore in North America, Europe, South America and other places to drive a stake through the heart of all hunting there, as well. Yesterday the seals and polar bear. Today, the African lion. Tomorrow, one species at a time, the antis will go for everything else. Yes, it’s for all the marbles.
Tugging in the war of wits are the emotion of the antis on one side, the logic and science of the hunters on the other. Between are government regulators whose decisions and actions often are guided by emotionally charged politics and the need to be re-elected at the expense of logic and science – sometimes to the extent that a species is actually harmed by the unintended consequences of misguided, even if well-intentioned, actions.
At the brink of success and failure is a very small, but highly dedicated and extremely effective SCI legal team in Washington, D.C. When necessary, they go to court anywhere in the land to litigate on behalf of all hunters, not just SCI members. In fact, they are so effective in the legal community that they have created and maintain a continuing education program for attorneys focusing on wildlife law. So influential is this effort that in recent years, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia addressed one session of the continuing legal education program.
Safari Club International and sister organization SCI Foundation are engaged in the epic battle to conserve wildlife and thus save hunting at numerous places around the globe, including Africa where the status of the lion is at issue. Advocacy efforts of SCI have two facets (science and political/legal) that afford the organization to double-tap the system when necessary. Science-based conservation from SCI Foundation provides SCI with the solid data needed for effective messaging on the governmental front, while the same data can be used to defend hunting/defeat antis in the courts. And, of course, that same data can be used effectively in the greater court of public opinion where the ultimate war is won or lost.
As much as SCI is the vanguard of defending hunting anywhere it is attacked, SCI also is the finest organization of hunters the world has ever known. It is that common bond of hunting that brings the tens of thousands of individuals around the world under the SCI umbrella to celebrate the hunt, preserve the hunt and share the joys of hunting culture.
Hunters are dreamers. We dream about hunts we have had and dream about hunts we plan to take. To keep these dreams from becoming nightmares, the time for action is now and those who need to act are hunters – all hunters.
Which brings us back to the initial question: Why should a hunter in North America, Europe, South America, Asia or between, who will never visit Africa or hunt an African lion care about the hunt status of the African lion? Because the operative concept is “hunt status,” not “African lion.” Doesn’t matter what the species is. Hunting is under attack in every locality and SCI is here to defend it.
SCI members are very dedicated, hardcore (albeit very well heeled) hunters. SCI members believe in hunting and the right to hunt all the way to the marrow in their bones. There is no difference between an SCI member and a local hunter. SCI members hunt locally, worldwide. As a result, they readily understand the interconnectedness of species and sustainable use of the world’s wildlife.
This is why SCI members fund the science and advocacy necessary to keep hunting open around the world. In addition to its effort relating to Africa for the lion and Canada for the polar bear, SCI has been and continues to be active in North America, advocating relative to wolves, bighorn sheep and other species. (Please see the adjacent sidebar articles that detail the political, legal and conservation efforts that together make SCI not just the leader in the world, but in some cases the lone voice in the urban wildernesses for hunters).
As SCI extends its advocacy efforts farther and farther afield, it is crucial that all hunters appreciate and therefore understand both the value of this tireless work and the necessity for it.
All hunters are welcome to join SCI. And those who opt not to be members right now are encouraged to participate to the degree they are able. All hunters are invited to join the fight and be part of the thin line (camouflaged at times) that separates the ability to hunt from the otherwise inevitable universal “no hunting” zone.
SCI and SCI Foundation spend millions of dollars to protect hunting and to conserve wildlife in ways that are real and support the sustainable use of those wildlife resources. That will continue.
For fellow hunters who personally want to help the effort to elect leaders with the correct perspective on hunting, there is a quick and easy way to enlist. It is called the Hunter Defense Fund – a super political action committee that will help fund political campaigns for right-thinking elected officials around the land. All donations to HDF, regardless how large or small, feed into a war chest that can and will be used to fend off the anti-hunting predators. To donate to HDF, call (202) 609-8181, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the SCI Washington, D.C. office at 501 2nd St NE Washington, D.C. 20002.
Alternatively, you can champion SCI’s litigation efforts by making a donation to help our attorneys pursue their defense of hunting and
sustainable use conservation. If that’s your preference, you can write a check to “Safari Club International” Attn: Litigation and send it to our Washington D.C. Office at 501 2nd Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20002.
Is it worth $5, $10 or $20 to be able to hunt upland game and deer next year, a decade or generation from now?
SCI members have pride in their membership. Donors to our advocacy efforts take pride in the fact that they actually have done something to make a difference.
If all hunters join the fight, victory is possible. The future is up to all hunters. Right here. Right now.
Later in SAFARI Magazine, we’ll discuss in more detail how a combination of the banning of hunting, government neglect and poaching work together to take species from healthy numbers to the brink of extinction – an outcome that doesn’t have to happen, but which does occur when the antis get their way.–Steve Comus