Smokey Merkley

Smokey Merkley

It has become pretty obvious to me that the difference between avid hunters and anti-hunters is that an avid hunter doesn’t mind those who don’t hunt. But anti-hunters want to ban everyone from hunting because they don’t hunt.

In my case, if my critics choose to ignore man’s history of hunting in light of their recently self-bestowed nobility, it comes right off the top of their moral credit card, and I’ll leave them to deal with it.

If that sounds harsh, I don’t mean it to be. I am simply unapologetic about any legal activity I participate in, including hunting. The irrelevant ranting of the anti-hunting crowd who have no understanding of who the real wildlife conservation people are, or who funds wildlife habitat restoration, certainly is of no benefit to wildlife.

However, those who would like to know the role of hunters in wildlife conservation and habitat restoration need go no further than the local Idaho Department of Fish and Game on Barton Road.

Many people seem to have a problem with the fact that man is by nature a predator and we always have been. Those who choose to disbelieve that we have a collective genetic memory of the old skills that helped change us from savages to space travelers, suffer from a form of denial.

I believe President Theodore Roosevelt was referring to that genetic memory when he wrote, “The chase is the best of all national pastimes; it cultivates that vigorous manliness for lack of in a nation, or individual, the possession of no other qualities can possibly atone.”

Man, however, is the most ill-equipped predator in nature. We don’t see as well as most predators, nor do we hear as well. We don’t smell as well as most predators, nor do we have the fangs and claws that most predators possess. We can’t run as fast as other predators, nor do we know the territory we hunt in as well as the other predators or the animals we are hunting.

Our only real advantages are our brain and the ability to design weapons that give us a chance to connect with the game we are hunting. That same brain allows us to plan hunts based on what we do know about the area we are hunting and how the game moves through that area.

Sometimes we are just lucky, but most of the time success is the result of a well-planned hunt for an animal that knows the area better than we do. That animal can see, hear and smell us and leave the area before we can get close enough to shoot with either a bow or rifle.

So one of the reasons we hunt is the challenge of trying to outsmart a very wary animal on his own turf. If you think our rifles and bows give us a huge advantage, I challenge you to try and get close enough to make a clean kill, and then make the shot on a moving animal or at a distance you didn’t sight in for at the range. Most of us know our rifles and bows as well as our own limitations, so we only shoot if we feel we have a good chance of being successful.

Twenty million Americans do believe in exercising and sharpening their genetic hunting skills and prove it by purchasing hunting licenses and tags each year. Millions more don’t actually hunt, but participate in target shooting, clay pigeon shooting, archery, precision-match shooting, three-gun competition and cowboy shooting. More than 2 million alone pay dues to the National Rifle Association.

The facts are the facts. Should your interest be more than emotionally based, any government agency will be happy to supply you with precise data that clearly proves that through direct funding by hunters and related taxes on the equipment purchased for hunting, the game herds have been maintained in most zones.

If you don’t want to hunt, that is fine. But if you wear a leather belt, a leather jacket, carry a leather purse, drive a car with leather seats or eat meat, don’t delude yourself or try to convince others that you care more for animals than hunters do, with all they contribute to wildlife conservation and habitat restoration.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He was a member of the faculty of Texas A&M University for 25 years. There he taught orienteering, marksmanship, self-defense, fencing, scuba diving and boxing. He was among the first DPS-certified Texas Concealed Handgun Instructors. He can be contacted at