Parent Category: News
Written by Jana Waller
Here, standing before me, was one of the world's most popular animal experts stating "Hunters are our greatest conservationists. They give back to the animals and environment more than any other group of individuals."
As a young girl growing up in the countryside of Wisconsin, I spent many days wandering the hillsides in search of frogs, snakes, caterpillars and cocoons. I was intrigued by all critters, large or small, and when I wasn't outside turning over rocks and logs, I was inside watching any and all TV shows that featured animals, reptiles and ocean life. From Jacque Cousteau to Marlin Perkins, if it highlighted animals I was hogging the remote. (Who am I kidding... there weren't remotes when I was a kid.) I was also brought up in a hunting family so the concept of hunters also being animal lovers made complete sense in my world. When I was old enough to sit still in a goose blind, or walk the pheasant fields without complaining, my father took me along on his hunts, furthering my passion for the great outdoors and everything it had to offer. I've always felt that my love of nature and animals is what makes me a better hunter. The two go hand in hand in my opinion.
It wasn't until I started writing for hunting websites nine years ago that I was even aware of the idea that there were "Anti"-hunters in the world. I guess I knew there were the stereotypical runway models who vowed to throw paint on real fur coats walking the streets of Manhattan, but I was very naive that 10% of the world is absolutely against any and all types of hunting, even if it meant animals would die of starvation, predation, overpopulation or disease. It wasn't until I started receiving hateful, crude comments from these 'anti's' on some of my articles that I was even aware of their agenda to stop hunting all together. Common sense, education and the concept of conservation are three things that have nothing to do with anti-hunter's philosophies. They don't want to hear that hunters have contributed over 2 billion dollars since 1937 towards wildlife restoration and management thanks to the excise tax on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment. They don't care to learn that the United States has the most successful wildlife management system in the world and that hunters and anglers have contributed more financial and physical support to that system than any other group of individuals. It's simple...we hunters are the true animals lovers, a fact that I've been determined to convey on Skull Bound TV since the very first episode.
Many people who were not raised in a hunting lifestyle have no concept of the broader understanding of what would happen to our animals and their habitat were in not for hunters. Mainstream media doesn't help our cause, often portraying hunters as redneck hillbillies who's favorite pastime is driving through mud bogs and shooting at beer bottles... or worse... poaching as often portrayed in tv shows like "North Woods Law" or "Alaska State Troopers". According to the Hunter's Education handbook, 10% of the U.S. population are hunters, 10% are against hunting, and 80% are simply neutral or non-hunters. That leaves a lot of people who quite possibly have never been exposed to the fact that hunting IS conservation.
While attending a local Wild Sheep Foundation banquet last spring, I was approached by George Bettas. George is the Founder of the Montana Outdoor Legacy Foundation, an organization aimed at protecting and enhancing Montana's wildlife. George asked if I'd be interested in attending a fundraiser at Jack Hanna's ranch in hopes of raising awareness and money for the cause. Of course I was delighted at the invite being a fan Jack's late night TV appearances on David Letterman, but my first question was "Is Jack Hanna PRO hunting?" As much as I love watching Jack, his vibrant personality along with his exotic animals, I also can't support any cause that undermines mine. To my surprise, George reassured me that while Jack doesn't hunt, he truly supports hunting as a positive management tool. Mr. Bettas also asked if I'd be willing to bead a donated grizzly bear skull that he picked up in the Alaskan bush for the fundraiser.
The day of the M.O.L.F. fundraiser finally arrived and we carefullly loaded the beaded grizzly skull into the truck and headed to Bigfork, Montana to Jack and Suzi Hanna's ranch. The event was held on the lawn of the Hanna's beautiful landscaped property where 200 people gathered for dinner, an auction and music by Shane Clouse, a popular Montana artist.
With the festivities in full swing, I was blessed to sneak away with Jack for a personal, heartfelt interview. Jack's personality is even more dynamic in person and as our cameras were rolling I couldn't help but shed a happy tear. Here, standing before me, was one of the world's most popular animal experts stating "Hunters are our greatest conservationists. They give back to the animals and environment more than any other group of individuals." Goosebumps rose on my arms and I envisioned myself in the middle of Times Square, New York with a magaphone yelling, "Did you hear that? THE Jack Hanna, popular tv personality, Director of the Columbus zoo, just stated that we hunters are the true conservationists!" It was music to my ears and a sense of validation from this highly respected and popular animal guru. To top it off, at the end of the compelling interview Jack turned to me with his quick wit and asked, "When I die, could you do something really special with my skull?" After a good laugh and a heartfelt hug, I walked away from that interview with a sense of euphoria. It's not that I needed to hear what Jack was saying... but rather the 80% of people on the fence who've never heard that message. It wasn't coming from a hunter but rather a world renowned animal expert.
It was a glorious evening spent with people who are passionate about Montana, hunting and conservation. Thanks to a generous bidder, my beaded grizzly skull raised $1200 for the Montana Outdoor Legacy Foundation along with other amazing pieces of art. Shane Clouse and his band Stomping Ground played well into the evening and I left the event feeling even more proud to call myself a hunter.
Jana with auction items on display, including her beaded skull
Tune in to Skull Bound TV on "Big Game Wednesday Nights" at 8:30pm EST January thru June!