One of the perks of being a Montana Outdoor Radio Show crew member is that we can express our personal opinions here, and, if we’re lucky, people will read our opinions. If not, we are still fortunate enough to have the opportunity to expose our opinions to thousands of people in one place…one awesome place–the place that IS MontanaOutdoor.com (thank you for following MORS!). Whether people like any of our opinions doesn’t really matter, if you think about it. I mean, it is nice when people understand where you’re coming from and agree with your logic, but I don’t lose sleep over people that don’t. I surely don’t agree with everybody I know, but I am still interested in learning why people believe what they believe–especially when they don’t know facts about what they claim to believe in… Everybody decides what they like and don’t like based on their own opinion(s). So, the saying that “opinions are like a$$holes” rings true–everybody does have one..or more.
I hunt, trap and fish–although, aside from steelhead fishing, I prefer to shoot my fish with a bow–with that being said, I was essentially told via an online rant that I am not qualified to do what I do as a Montana sportsman on MontanaOutdoor.com because I am just a chick. Knowing that this person most likely doesn’t do anything other than complain about things online, I decided to compile a checklist for people who want to make a difference in sportsmen’s lives in Montana and across the country but don’t know how to DO that outside of the internet. This list is based on my own experiences of being involved with local, state and national organizations, whether I’m volunteering, donating or a board member.
Here we go:
- LEARN ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT. I have seen that many people have no idea what it even takes for regulations to change, initiatives to pass, legislation to change–many Montana resident sportsmen don’t even know who the MT FWP commissioners are (click here), and they complain about the decisions being made when they are clueless as to HOW the decisions are made. Learn about the wildlife you think you know about here in this state and learn how the regulations become regulations. Knowledge is a good thing–I assure you that you will learn something even if MT FWP is not on your “nice” list. The bottom line is that MT FWP has the job of managing our wildlife–whether you believe they are doing a good job or not doesn’t even matter because that isn’t changing the fact that they are ultimately the decision makers. Learn about the processes. Learn who your region’s game wardens are–oh, I will be touching on some issues I have there in another article.
- GET INVOLVED. Regardless of how you do it–get involved! Volunteer, donate, represent, become a member or a lifetime member of an organization whose mission is to support something you believe in–support the organizations that are out there representing us–Montana sportsmen…(rather than constantly typing Montana sportsmen and sportswomen, just know that I am referring to women and men who hunt, fish, and/or trap–sportsmen is all encompassing-FYI) Donate to organizations like Montana Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, the Montana Trappers Association and Walleyes Forever, but beware of the green groups disguising themselves as supportive of hunting/fishing/trapping when, in fact, they are not. Volunteer at events to represent organizations you support, put your name in to be on the board of those organizations, spread the word of these groups via social media, blogs and in print–everywhere you can think to do it, volunteer to help in any way you can. Every cent and every second counts. Keep in mind the national organizations such as the National Trappers Association and BigGame Forever also support state organizations and back state organizations to help fight for the rights of sportsmen, so they need your support, also! Complaining online will not change anything for sportsmen. I mean, it’s good to vent, and that is what social media seems to be for, but change happens by DOING. As a former board member of the Montana Trappers Association and a lifetime member of Montana Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, I will do whatever I can for them even if I am not financially able to donate.
- GIVE YOUR INPUT. When public comment is being sought, COMMENT! Don’t think that your input won’t matter–this is a time where it is most important to submit it! Well written and thought out editorials, letters to officials–keep to the point, and stick to the facts…emotional rants and outbursts only make you look just like the emotion-driven anti-sportsmen.
- BE ETHICAL AND FOLLOW THE REGULATIONS. Whether or not you agree with current hunting/fishing/trapping regulations is irrelevant–law is law, and we, as ethical sportsmen, are obligated follow laws. If you just moved here from out-of-state, note the 180-consecutive day requirement to purchase a resident hunting/fishing/trapping license. As sportsmen, we do not want to see any animals suffer (yes, I am aware this is debatable with wolves, but that is another article–nice work so far, wolf hunters!), but quick, clean kills, whether we’re hunting, fishing or trapping are what we all want and should strive for–LEGALLY. It is important for sportsmen to keep ethics in the forefront, and I know I don’t even have to say that, because real sportsmen already know this.
- BE A MENTOR OR FIND A MENTOR. Take a kid hunting/fishing/trapping. Heck, take an adult out. Take a teenager out. Take anybody out who hasn’t been exposed or has been minimally exposed to hunting. Be a person they need to show them learn proper and ethical techniques, educate, answer questions and share success while enjoying every second of the experience, regardless of the outcome. Again, note #4. If you have never trapped before, and you are not required to take the trapper education class, PLEASE consider taking the class anyway, and attend the skinning workshops while also finding a mentor. These classes are made up by incredible men and women who are long-time trappers that are so passionate about this most ethical form of wildlife management–you are GUARANTEED to learn and meet some of the most amazing people you have ever met at these clinics and classes. Also, don’t fish before knowing the regulations of the body of water you are fishing. Know what species of fish are protected in Montana, and know the size and quantity limits of the area. All of these things are the sportsman’s responsibility, so don’t rely on other people to tell you without confirming accuracy in the current regulation book. Same with hunting. Know what you are able to legally tag in the areas you hunt. Don’t let so-and-so tell you they know because they grew up there. Confirm all the info you’re told, as it is YOUR responsibility as the hunter to know what you are doing. Regulations change.
- ENJOY YOURSELF. A positive attitude while you’re out doing anything is vital to quality of life. As a sportsman, you are a conservationist, and you are helping our wildlife population. Enjoy the hunt itself even if you don’t get to tag an animal. Enjoy the time with friends and/or family or in solitude while you’re trying to get the fish to bite–even if you don’t get a bite. Enjoy the trap checks with your kids, friends or solo even if the traps are empty. It’s all about sharing these experiences and enjoying every aspect of what we are so fortunate to have around us here in Montana. Positive attitudes can be contagious, too!
There it is. Maybe you made it down to here, maybe you didn’t. These are my own personal thoughts. There are a lot more things to add, but I know that these particular actions DO make a difference. Just imagine if we all focused on changing via doing rather than internet complaining.