The other day a group of us met for supper, an annual ritual after opening weekend of the regular firearms deer hunting season. Talk usually centers on recent happenings, stories and the occasional light-hearted jabs.
Somewhere in between passing the mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables the conversation took an ugly twist. That’s when a guest of the group blurted out “I hate it when nonresidents hunt the same deer I am”. It wasn’t meant as a personal attack, but rather aimed at the generic non-resident hunter. He was a little rubbed because the adjacent property he used to have access had been recently leased by a group of hunters from Illinois. There may have been a time I harbored those same feelings, so I sure didn’t deserve to throw any stones. And besides, I’ve been on the receiving end of those same harsh sentiments a time or two myself when I traveled to other regions on hunting trips.
Now, more than ever, sportsmen venture much farther than their own backyards. Once large family farms are being divided and sold into smaller tracts. Other rural lands are being gobbled up for highways and housing developments. Not mentioning the growing trends of leasing or purchasing private property for personal recreational pursuits.
Employment rates are at record highs and many families now have discretionary income to take trips farther from home, hoping to try their luck in other beautiful settings. However sometimes we are surprised and even hurt when we encounter that same nonresident prejudice. The disdain felt when we wrongly perceive that someone is invading our area.
Sometimes those with the same zip codes share the “we are family” feeling and those living across that jurisdiction are viewed as outsiders. We tend to be very possessive about things within our state, like ball teams, landmarks and wildlife.
Trying to find a sensible reason why some hold gut resentment for nonresident sportsmen is difficult. When our dinner guest tried to come up with a logical answer about all he could say was “well, we pay for it.” But even this isn’t totally true.
In Indiana, the Division of Fish and Wildlife have several small revenue streams but the sale of licenses is their cash cow. And it’s no secret the amount of money a nonresident pays for a permit is triple than any Indiana resident. So in reality the nonresident is paying more for our wildlife and associated programs than those who actually live here. That’s when I asked everyone at the table to show where they had done more, on a one person basis, to fund wildlife than the nonresident. A few sputtered and protested but couldn’t really respond.
When looking back, the partisan feeling towards what we may perceive as ours has been a historic cause of turmoil in arenas far larger then hunting and fishing. It has caused wars. But we are sportsmen and believe in fair play and want to live up to that honorable expectation, regardless of residence.
Regardless of where we hunt, or who may hunt close to us, a trophy buck is anyone’s fair game, no matter where the hunter calls home. Whatever the address, to the game we seek, we are all the same.