Some hunting seasons bring snow, cold, winds and inhospitable conditions which we as hunters prepare for in order to pursue an oft-anticipated portion of our year, and in the end find success in the field through our efforts. These efforts may start way back in spring or summer, getting into shape through a workout regimen, sighting in a new rifle, or logging countless rounds of trap, skeet or sporting clays to feel comfortable with our physical abilities and shooting skills. The purchase of gear, particularly that cold-weather clothing, helps us further get ready for what any hunting season may throw at us as the days get shorter and cooler. The amount of time invested to overcome the challenges of both the conditions and our quarry can be monumental.
This year, sportsmen and society face other headwinds leading into the turn of the calendar page to November, and it isn’t just the cold that’s sure to come and spur rutting deer into action and bring a shiver to sportsmen and women on the deer stand. Rather, we face an election season that is so important to the future of hunting, fishing, outdoor recreation and conservation, but with the ongoing pandemic and other forces at play, voting in this year’s election will be far more different than any other trip to the ballot box, and also far more consequential. Making certain that your voice — and the voice of the hunting, fishing, shooting, conserving public — is heard, will require the same effort put into preparing for the challenges of the hunt. However, unlike trying to get in shape with just 10 days before opener, it isn’t too late to get set to make decisions and set out a plan for your vote which may very well impact the outdoors for decades to come.
Scout it out
Knowing your candidates is as important as scrolling through the photos your trail camera captures in the pre-season and inspecting stand sites and shooting lanes ahead of November. Online resources are available to provide voting records of elected officials from the city and county levels on up to the federal government. Learning where your current commissioners, legislators, and congresspeople stand on hunting, fishing, public lands and conservation-related issues now will make you better informed at the ballot box. Utilizing search engines such as Google and simply typing in the name of an incumbent or a challenger is likely to lead to more information on their previous record or comments on conservation. Take the time now to find the one that most aligns with your outdoor ideals — regardless of party — and get set to cast your vote.
This year there is more confusion about voting than any other. Absentee ballots, vote-by-mail, early voting and anticipated backlogs on and after election day have grabbed headlines, spurred controversy, and stoked confusion. I like to think that as hunters and anglers, we’re an astute group, capable of seeing through the trees to spot a moving deer, watching a riffle for the subtle rise of a trout, or picking out the rooster pheasant from a flushing group of birds to make the right shot. Whatever available voting option that works for you in your jurisdiction should be a bit easier to focus on like those subtle natural cues in the field and on the water, whether you’re on the road for a hunting trip that first week of November, or just want to make certain your vote is counted. Take the time to understand balloting procedures and the changes in place for public health and safety during this election season to be certain you hit the mark and that your vote is counted, because now more than ever, it does.
Know the issues
Hunters, anglers, bird watchers, hikers, kayakers, conservationists and the plethora of other people who pursue their passions in the outdoors share a common bond. All of the activities which they enjoy sit upon the three-legged stool of the North American conservation model, which at the turn of the 20th century saved a dwindling population of wildlife and wild places and then created opportunities for people to enjoy them, whether in the spirit of a hunt or through casual observation. Through the creation of habitat and access, all citizens enjoy the wild creatures and wild spaces which in this time of social distancing have never been more important to our society. Yet, despite the heightened demand to be somewhere other than quarantined behind four walls in this in-between era, many politicians are openly working to sell off public lands which provide habitat, to curtail public access to the spaces that provide respite from the stress of the pandemic, and make the pursuit of fish and game a rich man’s activity, governed by the uneducated legislator as science is pushed aside in many important decisions about wildlife management in favor of the almighty dollar.
Know the issues that impact those three pillars of habitat, access and wildlife in your area, statewide and nationwide before you darken the circle next to a candidate’s name. Did they vote to overturn nearly a century of public access to millions of acres in the last legislative session? Have they promised to turn deer herd management back to biologists? Have they fostered the marketing of hunting, while scrapping surveys that would benefit upland hunters with more knowledge? Have they moved to increase access to public lands, or have they threatened to sell them? Was their vote in Washington D.C. in favor of more CRP acres or not? The answers to all of these questions and more can be found in a newspaper, a magazine, or online resources and where a candidate stands can impact hunting, fishing and conservation and ultimately your success in the field and that of generations to come.
Take this election season as seriously as you would the preparations for the opening day of duck or deer season. The same way you would freshen up the camouflage on a blind or be certain your blaze orange was as bright as it ever was before the season’s start, now is the time to prepare for the most important voting season of our lifetimes, and those of future sportsmen and women. The efforts put in now will prepare you to make the decisions that matter; protecting habitat, access and wildlife and the nature of conservation, hunting seasons, and time on the water which will come after your vote … in our outdoors.
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