IF HUNTERS BELIEVE that a single vote doesn't really matter much, think back to the 2000 election. After all the political dust finally settled, it was former president Bill Clinton who groused that NRA members and the Democrats' active gun control efforts had cost Al Gore the extremely close election. True or not, one fact should be clear as a cold mountain spring: Pro-hunting voters have the ability to impact the outcome of any election -- local, state, or national.
And if hunters harbor doubts that individuals can't effect positive change in our ongoing war with the hunter-haters, check out how angry sportsmen recently convinced the tire-making giant Michelin to cease its donations to the American Humane Association (AHA). That antihunting organization freely admits it "opposes the hunting of any living creature for fun, trophy, or simple sport." And when concerned hunters spoke, Michelin listened.
Unfortunately, the AHA is only one of many groups dedicated to ending all hunting. The current cause du jour is black bear hunting. The antis, encouraged by their past successes in Ontario, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Massachusetts, have succeeded in getting referendums on the 2004 ballots in Maine and Alaska, a ploy which will allow voters the opportunity to outlaw bear hunting over bait. Even in New Jersey where antihunting forces failed to stop the state's 2003 hunt designed to control problems created by a growing black bear population, antis' continuing efforts aim "to protect" Garden State bruins during future hunting seasons.
Savvy and well-funded hunter-haters continue toiling to convince uninformed urban voters and issue-sensitive politicians to join a misguided crusade that ignores the recommendations of pro-hunting wildlife managers and game biologists. Despite defeats in Idaho and Michigan, where voters rejected bear hunting restrictions, antis continue to use the ballot box and misleading emotional propaganda to attack hunters. This year it's black bears. In the future it will be deer. And elk. And wild sheep. And moose. And on and on. Count on it! The antihunters readily admit their goal is to end all hunting.
That's why it's especially critical that hunters fight back with votes of their own. Collectively, North America's hunting ranks include millions of registered voters. It makes no difference whether you're strictly a bowhunter or someone who enjoys hunting with both bows and firearms. All hunters are in this battle together, no matter whether we wear camo or blaze orange. Unless we recognize this very real threat, support pro-hunting organizations, and join forces at the nearest polling place, we're putting ourselves on the endangered species list.
Democrat. Republican. Independent. Libertarian. Whatever candidate you support, take time to explore and evaluate that person's voting record and public stance on hunting and gun control. Some politicians, quite naturally, can be evasive. Masters of doublespeak and determined not to let the NRA and voting sportsmen beat them again in '04, many office-seekers claim to support the 2nd Amendment, as well as "reasonable restrictions" on owning and using firearms. Other candidates make no bones about their goal: an outright ban on all hunting -- including bowhunting -- and gun ownership.
So whom do you trust? For whom will you vote?
It has been said that you can't really get to know a man until you've spent a week together in hunting camp. Unfortunately, few of us will ever have that opportunity. All we can do is examine each candidate's public position on issues meaningful to hunters. And trust our gut instinct. Then vote.
I, for one, would never waste my vote on any politician -- whether seeking the presidency, a congressional seat, governorship, or some local office -- who won't clearly state a positive pro-hunting position. I would never help elect anyone who has ever sided with any antihunting group or gun control zealots. Neither would I vote for any politician I'd hesitate to invite into my hunting camp. Nor would I ever neglect to vote.
I hope you feel the same way and will cast your vote accordingly.