Jungman: Don’t slander the sportsman (letter)
I appreciate all the variety of opinions presented in the Summit Daily each week, some I occasionally even agree with. The segments written under the umbrella of “Writers on the Range” are often related to my passion, which is the outdoors.
However, I rarely have been so offended nor disagreed with a column as much as I did parts of Alex Simon’s on Saturday, Aug. 29 (“Just don’t call him a hunter”). What he calls a sportsman is absolutely not what they represent.
Simon comes with academic credentials in sociology and environmental studies, and I very much agree with him that if Walter Palmer knowingly did all he has been accused of, the hunting community would not call him a hunter but rather a poacher — both functioning outside the law and agreed upon sportsmen’s ethics. He went into great detail and historical references as to why being a hunter is right and ethical and being a sportsmen is shallow and despicable. I do understand language evolves over time, and his references are all long gone, but they do represent some of the pioneers in the development of the modern sportsmen.
I certainly do not know all the details around Cecil, even naming him makes it well into our pet mentality rather than a wild animal. The media has presumed he was hunting this specific lion, which I do not know, but could be true. Even hunting a pride male is something I understand professional hunters try not to do. I do know in hunting and fishing anywhere we rely heavily on the local knowledge of the professional hunter or guide if there is one, but the hunter or angler is always ultimately responsible for their actions.
Simon also parrots the general media’s statement that he obviously knew this lion should not have been taken because it had a GPS collar on it. I would presume with any involvement with his own wildlife department that Simon knows full well they have numerous animals collared to track numbers and movement just as we have banded birds. Yes, they are legal to be harvested within the normal limits of the seasons and limits and that helps track mortality rates. The allegation that the guide attempted to destroy the collar rather than turn it in to the wildlife department is highly suspect for them, knowing they were in the wrong. I agree with Mr. Simon, this presumed behavior is not what we call hunting, but it is even less what we call being a sportsman.
My note is not to find Palmer guilty or not or even in this small article criticize or defend hunting in general. If Summit Daily readers follow national averages, under ten percent of the readers are hunters, perhaps fifteen to twenty percent are against hunting and the rest may understand the need to control populations and have friends or family who do consider themselves sportsmen and sportswomen. They ask and are entitled to our highest of ethics in this passion of ours. Women are even the fasting growing segment of the hunting public.
I may not be a total expert on the subject, but does Simon’s definition of a sportsman even sound like anyone you know? I certainly hope not! Would they be the ones who started and support Ducks Unlimited, The Elk Foundation, The Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, Safari Club International, The Mule Deer Foundation and all the other ways sportsmen support wildlife and their habitat.
My background is as a passionate hunter the past 60 years. I have taught hunter education here in the county for 30 years, and the ethics portion of the class is as important as safety. I wrote an outdoor weekly column for ten years for the Summit Sentinel, a predecessor of the Daily, and am still privileged to have spent over twenty years as one of two sportsmen’s representatives on our Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Habitat Partnership Program’s State Council. I believe I understand the term “sportsmen” as it is used now.
Simon quotes Aldo Leopold, 1887 to 1948, as claiming a lack of what we consider an environmental ethic is what makes a sportsman. When he started as U.S. Forest Service officer under Pres. Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, we were just starting to develop any environmental ethics in the country, much less laws and regulations. Our own roots of CPW was the understanding that you should not be able to just dynamite streams to catch fish. Certainly we were not to catch and release fly fishing back then. Many sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts look at Leopold’s “Sand County Almanac” as a key in helping us grow in conservation and preservation ethics. Even Edward Abbey’s famous “Desert Solitaire,” which was not so controversial as Monkey Wrench Gang promoting some believe environmental lawlessness. He mentions the evolving attitudes of Teddy Roosevelt, my very favorite, and yet he takes the label most hunters try and identify with and slams it. He uses historical figures we all admire for their leadership and ignores such facts as even Aldo Leopold became a professional member of the Boone and Crocket Club in 1923, the first Sportsmen’s organized of our wildlife organizations. He helped start the Wilderness Society, with the mission of growing the country’s ethics and one of the focal points of a new attitude and of understanding mans place in nature.
When wildlife is taken illegally and unethically, think “poacher” not “sportsman.”
Dr. Gregory Jungman
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