Let’s say you want to get some of the public involved in studying and managing wildlife ecosystems. If you had to pick from one group of folks for this volunteer field biology task force, which group would you choose?
The environmentalists might have the passion, but they (on average) lack the know-how and toughness. The bird-watchers know their stuff, but their data is going to be limited by their collection methods. The trained scientists are few and far between.
Hunters, on the other hand, are (and have traditionally been) the best field biologists you could ask for.
Who else spends days and weeks every year out in nature? Who else spends free time setting up field cameras, planting food plots, and observing animal travel patterns?
Who else patiently sits on the edge of fields, among the branches of trees, and in the crevasses of mountains to observe wildlife?
Who else has the fitness and the gear to traipse over all kinds of terrain to locate animals?
Who else closely follows news on wildlife populations, new research on animal behavior, and the best practices for attracting animals?
In my exposure to the most serious of hunters, I’ve seen a level of drive and engagement with practical animal science that is unmatched except by professionals. What I love about hunting is that it creates “skin in the game” for the hunter, making the study of (and contribution to) animal biology all the more worthwhile. These guys and gals *know* their quarry, and they often care enough to actively research and actively contribute to wildlife management.
With such a solid base of work on wildlife science already coming out of the hunting community, it would be great to see more researchers and conservationists tapping the hunting population for help. Hunters have the boots, they have the binoculars, and they have the will and skill to go out and work where the science needs to happen.
Photo by Derek Malou on Unsplash