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  • Matt Breton


Change is hard, especially when you like the status quo. And our culture is changing. The rural way of life feels like it is under attack. Everyone wants development and progress, and I suppose, in measured steps, those things have value. I do think there needs to be a lot of contemplation before we start doing things differently. Rather than looking at something solely at face value, we need to look underneath and understand why it is the way it is, then, if we still think it needs to change. We all have an ego that thinks we are correct immediately, and if we don't examine our thoughts, understand our own biases, we are often wrong. This assumes, of course, that things are either right or wrong when in reality there are a thousand shades of gray.

This has come up in my life a bunch lately. Around hunting. Around my way of life in the NEK. There seem to be numerous challenges to the things I love to do. The world has gotten noisy with it. It would be easiest to simply try to block out the noise, easier still to yell back at it and try to be louder. But this isn't a shouting contest. These are real things that can't be ignored. Rather the resist and attempt to put up a dam, I feel like I should try to steer the current. There is fear in this approach. We often fear loss more than we value gain, especially when what we have is good. Yet the world is changing, always has been, and always will. Heck, the tectonic plate under India moves northeast about two inches per year- the very ground beneath us is shifting. Our limited life view cannot really take it all in.

A landscape that changes quickly. The Badlands in the distance, South Dakota.

The struggle, in specifics, is around predator hunting in VT. People oppose it. It started with eliminating coyote hunting contests. I honestly believe that is fine- I would even support banning big buck pools and ice fishing contests. These things tend to create a very sports-like atmosphere around hunting and fishing. I don't think of these things as sport. They are lifestyle. It is in human nature to compete- we won't change that. I just don't think we should compete around the life or death of other creatures. Will I congratulate my buddy if he shoots a bigger buck or catches a bigger fish- I certainly will. He has bragging rights. Something happens when this competition gets outside a small circle of friends though, the competition takes on a life of its own that seems unhealthy for the pursuit. I begin to call in to question, in those bigger contests, the legitimate use of the resource, which is one of the tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Management.

This concept of 'legitimate use' is the barometer we need to use as hunters and anglers. We often fall behind scientific management as what allows us to do something, and that is a bare minimum. After that standard has been met, we hunters need to remain socioculturally accepted and relevant. We need to stay in the bounds of society. We need to press to keep the boundaries wide, but those borders are not static. There are countless examples of a fluid process. We went from being completely unregulated in the 1800s in many places, to every state having laws and limits. We have established new seasons to accommodate changing weapons, in some places hunters didn't hunt on Sundays. As culture changes, so do we, and we must. Should there be a coyote season and wanton waste law? I say yes. Can the season be broad because science says the species is doing fine? Yes. Should there be a requirement of legitimate use? Yes. Use the fur- this is, after all, a life that is being taken. There needs to be a reason behind it.

The fear here, and it is understandable, is that the people who don't understand our way of life will continue to chip away at it. That if we give an inch, they will keep taking inches until we have nothing left. This fear of the slippery slope is normal, but is a fallacy. The inches we give matter. We should not give on techniques (say trapping), but we do need to adapt the parameters by which we participate to better align with the principles we espouse. Society, when it sees us change in response to our changing world, will continue to respect our pursuits, rather than question our motives. It gives us solid ground to stand on. We have lost nothing by accepting some of these limits- it legitimizes what we say we do. Historically, hunters were leaders in a nomadic and rural society. We need to figure how we fit into our changing world to stay relevant.

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