Hunters – Single Greatest Asset for Preserving Wild America?

I can see your eyes roll, a gasp come out your open mouth, or “No way,” escape your lips. But it’s true. I’ve seen it. I’m living it this week at my husband’s hunting camp in middle Georgia and during a visit to a nearby wildlife management area (WMA).

How Do Hunters Preserve the Wild?

Quite simply, hunters are a large group of mostly men, who spend a lot of money to hunt close to home, in nearby states, or thousands of miles away from their homes. They pay for hunting leases, hunting licenses, hunting outfitters and guides or buy large tracts of virgin land for the sole purpose of maintaining acreage to hunt deer, elk, bear, mountain goats, caribou, bison, moose, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn. Then there are the birds; turkey, quail, dove, ducks, geese… the list goes on and on. And those hunting license fees are earmarked for parks and other state lands we all can enjoy.

The desire to have wild game available to hunt drives hunters to spend big bucks to keep wild areas wild. They fork over thousands for annual hunting leases from farmers who grow slash pine as one of their crops. Slash pine stands provide cover for deer and turkey, while the edges between crop fields allow hardwood to flourish, their acorns and fruits littering the ground. And unfortunately for the farmer, deer graze in their crop fields. I don’t know who loves soybeans more, deer or hunters.

Does Harvesting Wildlife Benefit the Herd?

You better believe it does. Any wildlife management program requires a method to thin the herd. When the number of animals become too large, sick or less robust males have the opportunity to breed, diminishing the overall health of the herd.

A Real Life Example of Hunters Preserving Wild Lands

One person that comes to mind is a botanist, Patrick Lynch, who was working on his Masters Degree in Athens, Georgia. Here is my interview with him:

Dawn: Hi, Patrick. Thank you for sharing your experiences with land preservation and the role of hunters in Georgia.

Patrick: You’re welcome. It changed the way I viewed hunters by 180 degrees. I’ve never worked directly with hunters in the field, but what I can say from experience is that astute hunters understand the necessity of preserving and maintaining a variety of habitat for wildlife and not just game. This includes both actively managed lands and more pristine, natural environments, which often harbor rare and/or endangered plant species. So while hunters and conservationists approach land preservation from different perspectives, our ultimate objective is more or less the same.

Dawn: Could you give us an example?

Patrick: Several colleagues and I spent years conducting research in an area of central Georgia containing a suite of unique and imperiled floristic associations and numerous rare and endangered plant species. Despite years of pleading, we, and several other interested parties, could not convince the state to purchase the property. It was not until the hunting lobby began to actively promote its preservation that the state finally saw the wisdom of permanently acquiring this property. Now there were some pretty heavy handed politics involved in the purchase as well, but without hunters advocating for preservation, this property would likely be a housing development, and all of the unique flora and fauna, some of which occurs nowhere else in Georgia, would be permanently lost.

Dawn: That’s an incredible story. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

Patrick: I’m happy to.

Who Else Benefits from Hunting?

Anyone interested in the environment prefers the preservation of wild lands. There are a number of ways this happens; local or federal agencies procure or maintain lands for the public good, private non-profits buy wild lands or create land trusts that save agricultural lands from future development. All these require money from individuals in the form of taxes, lottery funding, or charitable contributions.

Hunters don’t ask for your money. Yes, they are self-motivated, but they are saving these lands nonetheless. Next time you catch yourself judging that person decked out in camouflage, reflect on Patrick Lynch’s story and consider the hunters who make this world a bit better for all of us.

Rebooting a Daily Practice

How many times have you restarted a practice? Have you restarted flossing your teeth the month before or after a cleaning? On the first day of classes, have you made a promise to take better notes, review those notes nightly, or complete all homework tasks? How many times have you said, “This time it’s going to be different” to yourself?

I’m no different from you. But this time I was able to continue my new habit, daily meditation, for nearly a year. Then something happened. I have no idea why I fell out of a daily practice. I just stopped.

The Anatomy of Restarting

My life slowly deteriorated. I got sick after experiencing wellness for over seven years. My knees and hip joints ached. Soreness crept into my leg muscles. I felt so tired, it seemed sleep was pointless. In desperation, I turned to meditation for help, the tears stinging my cheeks. I’d lost the memory of what was once routine.

The next morning at the breakfast table, after pouring my morning coffee and complaining of extraordinary fatigue, I announced, “I’m heading to the office to meditate.” “Okay,” they replied, like it was nothing unusual. I expected fanfare, encouragement, a pat on the back.

I let the dogs outside, eager to start their day playing in the yard. Distractions removed, I slowly descended the stairs, half-empty coffee cup in hand., I approached my return to routine without enthusiasm, the old feelings of inadequacy in residence inside my mind.

Taking the First Step

Sitting in front of my laptop, headphones in place, I clicked ‘Play’ on a familiar guided meditation. The comfort of Bronwen’s melodious voice immediately relaxed my neck and shoulders. My breathing eased into a natural rhythm. As she led me through each phase, I felt layers of stress lift. My arms felt light, cushioned on pillows of air as I pressed my palms together in gassho. A sense of peace returned to my body, soul, and mind.

Once the 30- minute meditation concluded, my hands moving effortlessly into self-healing, their warmth resting on my face, then moving through the positions, stress dissolving like steam over a bowl of oatmeal on a cold morning. a gently boiling open pan. A huge sigh escaped my lips, the final stress released.

My tiredness fatigue had been considerably reduced, but it was still present. Slowly, as I started my daily chores, I felt the return of my normal energy level until the fatigue was completely gone, replaced by a sense of euphoria.

What Was Different?

I really thought that my meditation practice would have been like starting over. Back to square one. But Tthe opposite was true. I had entered a new level of peace and compassion for myself that was stronger and deeper. Returning to an established routine was much easier than I expected, and all it took was the first step.

Now, as I write, the physical and mental pull to put on the headphones and enter a state of relaxation is stronger than even my desire to write….

Top 5 Health Benefits of Family Hiking

1. Improved Cardiovascular and Muscle Fitness

Do you remember when children ran outside and played active games like hide and seek or hopscotch? Today children are often sitting in front of the television, engrossed in a video game, or texting their friends. Regular hiking will build stronger muscles and improve their heart, lung, and vascular fitness. Adults are also less active if they have careers that keep them at their desks.The whole family gets healthier together!

2. Improved Bone Health

A sedentary lifestyle results in weak bones that may break more easily, in children and adults. The impact of walking and hiking strengthens bones at the cellular level and is one of the factors to reduce the chance to develop osteoporosis as we age.

3. Better Sleep

Who doesn’t want their children and themselves sleeping better!

4. Active Learning Using All the Senses

When you expose your children to different environments, the opportunity to learn is huge. Take the time to engage all your senses by closing your eyes and smelling the odors of nature; pine scent in a forest, earthiness of a swamp, sweetness of wild roses, the deliciousness of ripe wild strawberries. Using touch, feel the textures of different rocks, tree bark, leaves, and stones. In the stillness of a quiet forest or along a lakeshore listen for the calls of birds. Look for the small animals often missed, ground beetles, blue dragonflies, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

5. It Just Feels Good

The positive energy in nature makes us smile. To tune in to its treasure, ask your family to sit on a rock or bench in a comfortable location, in sun if it’s chilly, in shade if it’s hot. Instruct everyone to close their eyes and breathe in to the count of 4, breathe out to the count of 4. In a soothing voice say, “Feel the breeze across your face and the warmth of the sun on your neck. Ahhhh. How do you feel?” Let your children express their feelings in this safe, loving environment. Congratulations, they’ve just participated in a short meditation!