On April 21st 2022 bear hunters everywhere rejoiced the not so small victory over the Humane Society of the United States who previously issued a petition in California to ban all bear hunting (surprise surprise). Naturally, the Humane Societies logic was to “pause” the hunt until more “science” could be provided. It seems there is still some hope for even the most liberal of states game commissions to listen to the best available science and not the whims of fanatical antihunting organizations.
I spent the day, like most who wanted to speak, waiting for hours on Zoom for the chance to talk for one minute. I spent from 0830 until 1630 before I was selected. I am not complaining, many others drove as long as 4 ½ hours to speak in person, so 9 hours round trip to talk for one minute. That’s dedication, especially with today’s gas prices. Prior to public comment, the petitioners (HSUS rep) were allowed to present their reasoning, which included bear hunters are “trophy hunters”, bear numbers are declining (despite three separate tests that indicate a stable and growing population of 35K likely underestimated according to the biologist), wild fires and of course the go to excuse for all things, the ice age, wait, global warming, sorry….climate change.
Once the presentation was heard, an astute commissioner asked about “trophy hunting” and what truly does happen after a kill. Amazingly, they allowed hunters to answer that question since they would know best. It was explained that bear meat is edible, delicious and in fact, illegal to waste, which, again surprisingly was confirmed by a game warden present at the meeting. This completely shot down the argument of “trophy hunting” despite that phrase not even being defined. Well, the HSUS rep did define that a trophy hunter was any hunter who killed an animal and took any body part and took a picture……so I guess we are all trophy hunters then?
Having now been confirmed hunters have to take the meat or face criminal charges, a question was then posed to the HSUS rep by Commissioner Sklar, “What would the Humane Societies position be if there were 50,000 bears (in California)? Would it be against hunting entirely? And is that a position you would take?”
The HSUS response came as no surprise to me but stated, “Are we ever going to be in favor of bear trophy hunting? No. The Humane Society of the United States will not support bear trophy hunting.” And there you have it. It is not for lack of scientific evidence, it is not because of wildfires, nor global warming, it is simply because they don’t like it. Bottom line. It would not matter if there was 50 or 100K bear.
And I truly think the commission saw through that and followed their mandate voting against the petition unanimously (4-0), following the fish and wildlife departments recommendations. An amazing but truthful statement by HSUS which proves they do not care about the science and like to use buzz words like “trophy hunting” to get an emotional response to help fulfill their goal of banning bear hunting. Prior to the vote, during public comment, the “trophy hunt” phrase was used by those opposed to bear hunting, along with the again, proven false, accusation that bear are only hunted for their hide. One antihunters argument I particularly found funny was that bear meat was deemed “unsafe” hence why it is not served at restaurants like deer and elk. This of course highlighted her ignorance to the fact it is in fact illegal to sell wild game meat and those ungulates served at restaurants are farmed animals. Plus, we all know bear is safe to eat if fully cooked.
The final statement by Commissioner Murray was refreshing for me to hear. “I will also be clear in just saying that I also believe in hunting and think it’s a natural way to get meat. I know for sure that hunting and fishing are important ways for young people and people to connect with natural and cultivate a healthy respect and love for the outdoors. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that 99% of people don’t do something that we should say no one should. Most people don’t hunt, most people don’t fish, doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t have the ability to do it. For me, that really isn’t what democracy means.” On the off chance anyone from the California Game Commission happens to see this blog, I thank you for following the science wherever that may lead. In this case, it leads to more bear hunting adventures for Californians everywhere.
Finally, along with the attacks hunting has sustained these past several months, a growing defense of our hunting heritage has been condensed and organized by Howl for Wildlife (@howl_org on Instagram) who had a hand in the volume of representation of hunters at the public comment period. This should not be ignored. It was not solely them, as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers had a presence along with RMEF and a few others I am sure I missed (along with numerous podcasts). The point is, we as outdoors men and women must organize and Howl for Wildlife is the easiest and most effective thing I have seen come along for this purpose (and no, I don’t work for them). It is not time for partisanship for whatever conservation or hunting org you may or may not belong to. It is time to unite, as big game hunters, houndsmen, anglers, waterfowl hunters, small game hunters and so on. We need all of us to voice our opinions and to continue this fight with every single ounce of our passion. Keep up the fight fellow hunters and enjoy the day, but the battle will continue.