February brings to a close many of our cherished hunting seasons. It is a time that most of us let our dogs rest, repair our equipment, clean our guns, and relax in anticipation of next fall. But there is one season that is still in play – the legislative season.
For many states, legislatures are in session, and than means that a lot of things can happen that impact our heritage and way of life, often in a negative way. Our adversaries (animal rights, anti-hunting, anti-gun, etc.) are constantly at work on their causes, and the legislative season is where they typically make the most progress. During this “forgotten” season, they remain hard at work trying to destroy those ideals we hold so close.
In the past few year, I have traveled the width and breath the United States working on issues as diverse as hunter recruitment, deer management, red wolves, conservation partnership building, and industry relations. Along the way, I am constantly impressed by the passion shared by so many of our outdoor brothers and sisters. From a conservation perspective, we truly are the most passionate group of people that I have ever had the fortune to work with and for.
But we need to focus that passion on the legislative process at the state level. Our system of government works best when the governed (the people) are engaged and involved. It’s easy to sit back and reminisce about past hunts and other outdoor adventures, but now is the time when we must be talking with our elected officials about the needs and desires of anglers, boaters, hunters, sport shooters, and other outdoor enthusiasts. It is not good enough to simply join a group and depend on that organization to take care of legislation that might impact you – although that is an important part of the process, and there are a number of groups that do great work. The biggest gains and the most effective protection often comes at the hands of the dedicated individuals that take the time to meet their legislators, walk the halls of the state capitols, and testify before committees on bills, that may positively and negatively affect our culture and heritage.
During my time working with the Kentucky Legislature, what I came to realize was that even one individual that showed up regularly and expressed an opinion carried tremendous weight. A half dozen individuals could easily result in a law getting passed…or defeated. That is how the anti’s do it, and that is how we must do it as well.
So I challenge each of you to get involved with the legislative process. Subscribe to online feeds or websites that let you know what kinds of bills are being filed. Go and meet with your legislators and get to know them. Then politely but firmly express your opinion in a clear and concise way, so there is no confusion on what you support or oppose. Do your homework and sign up to testify before a committee on bills that concern you. But what ever you do, get involved, or don’t complain when bad things happen to you.
I leave you with this…if we all spent the same amount of time working on legislative actions that we do worrying about checking trail cameras, we could easily win any battle thrown at us by our adversaries. It’s up to you – invest some time in your government defending what you have, or be willing to lose it.