Tag Archives: conservation

Who is a hunter?

Today we’re hearing from Nicole Meier, Information and Education Specialist with Vermont Fish and Wildlife and avid hunter and outdoorswoman, as she shares how she overcomes barriers in the hunting community.

Who is a hunter? How do we identify ourselves as hunters? Is it how often we go out or how often we harvest an animal? Is it how we talk about hunting and the outdoors? Is it living on a dirt road and loving country music? Do those things make or break my status as a hunter? My answer is this: you are a hunter if you want to be.

When I first moved to Vermont, I asked a co-worker of mine if he would take me hunting. I was a new hunter (I had only been out hunting once, despite fishing almost my whole life), and didn’t know Vermont at all. My vulnerable request for help was met with a resounding “no.” Ouch. I was discouraged to say the least. This co-worker also told me that he didn’t expect me to do very well in the woods, and insinuated that I should just stay home.

I barely knew anyone in the state, and after the rejection I encountered, didn’t feel like making another vulnerable request to anyone else. I certainly didn’t feel like a hunter, and didn’t feel like I could go out there on my own. So, I didn’t, and in the process, I realized that I let someone else define who I was, and let me feel like I wasn’t capable of being in the woods on my own.

After that fall, I resolved to myself that I would do a little more hunting each year. It was a fun task. With each passing year, I have felt increasingly confident in myself and my ability to go out in the woods. My confidence has increased so much that I recently spoke on a panel of female hunters. During that panel discussion I expressed my distaste for “hunter pink.” I despised it, and I let everyone else in the room know it. I felt that hunter pink was patronizing, condescending, and shallow. Women who are serious about hunting wear real hunting clothes, I asserted.

A lot of people remember me for that rant, and I regret it. Women who wear hunter pink are no less a hunter than anyone else. Who am I to say that anyone isn’t a true hunter? What matters is getting outside, and how you feel when you’re out there. I will offer this about hunter pink – manufacturers of hunting clothing need more female designers.

Identity is deeply personal, and it shouldn’t be defined by the people around us, but it should come from within. I define being a hunter deeply in my relationship with the landscape. It isn’t about filling a tag, or even filling the freezer (although that’s a big part of it for me, too!), but about connecting to my true self. When I’m in the woods, I am connected, and I feel a sense of belonging and mindfulness –  I acutely aware of myself, the place, and other beings I am interacting with.

Who has the power to decide whether or not you are a hunter? Only you do. Only you can define who you are, what a hunter is. Hunters don’t have to be hulking, bearded mountain men who are out in the woods every single day. I am a hunter – in every fiber of my 5 feet.

Beach Day for Beetles!

The largest-ever reintroduction of an endangered tiger beetle happened quietly in the morning of October 19th, 2017, on a foggy beach in the Connecticut river. These beetles are the rare Puritan Tiger Beetle, Cicindela puritana , or “PTB” as tiger beetle experts call it. This species is listed as federally threatened and state endangered due to a century of human use that has changed the Connecticut River’s flow. This change has reduced desired habitat, and left only one viable population of PTBs in New England. This reintroduction of more than 700 laboratory-reared PTB larvae is only part of a multi-year, team-project to establish sustainable populations of PTB in the Connecticut River.

Endangered Puritan Tiger Beetle male.

This project, which is supported by the Cooperative Recovery Initiative program and based at the Richard Cronin Aquatic Resource Center in partnership with Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, unites a seasoned team of over 30 Federal & State wildlife officials, professional Biologists, Academic partners, students, and generous volunteers. Together, this group is pioneering methods to acquire land, captive-rear larvae, manage habitat, and use field-techniques to ensure the survival of PTB throughout one of the largest rivers in the Northeast.

Volunteers from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Student Conservation Association, and the University of Massachusetts prepare a plot before larva reintroduction.

To restore a healthy river ecosystem that includes these tiny apex predators, lab-reared PTB reintroductions are key to establishing new populations. To do this, the PTB team uses aerial “butterfly” nets to carefully collect adult beetles from the single source-population. The adult beetles mate and lay eggs in the lab, which hatch into larvae that grow progressively larger through 3 growth phases, called instars. In the wild, it takes about 2 years for PTB larvae to reach their third instar, but in the lab, this time can be reduced to just a few months.

Rodger Gwiazdowski moistens the top layer of soil with river water at 1 of 7 reintroduction plots.

The reintroduction sites were carefully selected by the PTB team. Finding good habitat requires expertise to determine sediment size, beach slope, and the abundance and diversity of prey that PTBs prefer. To be reintroduced, PTB larvae are transported to the site, each in their own small sand-filled vial, and released into plotted-areas on the beach where they immediately dig vertical tunnels in the sand to develop through their instar stages. 

Volunteers release PTB larva into the sand.

Over the next 2 years, the PTB team will revisit the reintroduction sites to count the number of PTB burrows and adult beetles, which will indicate the success and survival rate of the lab-reared PTBs.

Stay tuned for 2018 updates on the PTBs!

A non-hunter’s guide to hunting

You may be wondering how regulated hunting contributes to conservation, the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and if it’s a sustainable practice.

Let’s start with the mission of the Service: working with others to conserve, enhance, and protect fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. A key component enabling the Service to carry out their mission is conserving and enhancing habitat, managed under the National Wildlife Refuge System. The purchase of federal duck stamps, required by all waterfowl hunters, provides the funding needed to conserve new lands, enhancing opportunities for outdoor activities where people can connect with nature.

Outdoor opportunities, including regulated hunting, are among the benefits people enjoy through the work of federal and state partnerships. For many, hunting is a family activity that transcends generations. Many feel hunting not only teaches the value and importance of wildlife conservation, but teaches imperative life lessons such as patience, respect, solitude, and self-awareness. Scott Kahan, Regional Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, for example, feels hunting is an important way to reconnect with nature and spend quality time with his two sons. He writes, “I will cherish the opportunity to get out in the woods to hunt with my sons and reconnect with those things that are truly important to me.”

Scott Kahan and his son at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.

So how do hunters contribute to the Service’s mission to conserve, enhance, and protect wildlife? First, biologists study and monitor the populations of wildlife species that are hunted to ensure populations are sustainable and healthy, while law enforcement officers ensure that regulations are being followed by hunters. In some areas, populations of game species can become overabundant, limiting the amount of suitable habitat available for other wildlife. In these situations, hunting contributes to the conservation, enhancement, and longevity of habitat for all wildlife through the regulated take of an overabundant species.

A meat processor participating in the Hunters Sharing the Harvest Program.

In addition to conservation benefits, hunting is a sustainable way to provide food for your family. Alternatively, if you enjoy hunting and have game meat to share, you can supply nutritious food for over 200 people by donating a single deer! Programs such as “Hunters Helping the Hungry” in New Jersey and “Hunters Sharing the Harvest” in Pennsylvania, allow hunters to donate their harvest to help feed those in need. Even if you are unsuccessful in harvesting a deer, you still had the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, spend time with family and friends, and participate in a wildlife-dependent activity!

Pennsylvania’s pheasant propagation program provides enhanced hunting opportunities for junior hunters. Photo by Hal Korber.

Are you interested in learning how to hunt? To obtain a hunting license, a prospective hunter must participate in and pass a hunter’s education course. These courses are funded by the Service through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program and are carried out by state agencies, and are designed to teach students to be safe, responsible, and conservation-minded hunters. Many programs are specifically designed for youth hunters, such as the Pennsylvania Junior Pheasant Hunt Program, where young hunters are guided by an experienced mentor throughout the hunt.

For experienced hunters who wish to expand their hunting knowledge, many states offer advanced hunting courses. For example, Vermont offers advanced hunting courses focusing on hunting Vermont black bears, white-tailed deer tracking and processing, and small game hunting with dogs.

Learn more about hunting on public lands here.

Click here to learn more about hunting on national wildlife refuges.

For links to state fish and wildlife agencies, click here.