I am ending 2017 and beginning 2018 like I have every New Year’s since 1962: hunting.

I will never understand those who do not hunt. For me, it is a part of my very soul. For a species, homo sapiens, whose very survival for thousands of years depended on hunting only 6 percent of Americans hunt today. We have definitely lost touch with our roots. The good news for hunters is public support for hunting has not changed much for decades, having settled at the 80 percent mark.

When asked if they wanted to end hunting only 4 percent say yes.

The other interesting thing today is that 35 percent of hunter’s hunt for the meat. That number has more than doubled since 2006. At a time when there are grocery stores on every corner it is surprising that the meat has become so important. Per pound, game meat is among the most expensive when you add all the costs of hunting. The flip side is you would be hard pressed to find a healthier, leaner source of animal protein than game meat.

The second most common reason people say they hunt is to spend quality time with family and friends.

A high percentage of non-hunters have consumed game meat. I guess hunters like to share their success.

Only 1 percent of hunters say they hunt for the trophy. That is a buzz word for the anti-hunting crowd but the truth is hunters are opportunists and with hunt success rates being so low, 75 percent of hunters go home empty-handed, most successful hunters take the first legal animal they find to fill that freezer.

And, even for that 1 percent, it is illegal to not take all the meat home. So, “trophy” hunting really does not exist in the United States.

The critical factor is the cost of wildlife management, and that includes all the animals we hunt and all those we do not hunt. Hunters pay for the management of the desert tortoise, the black-footed ferret, burrowing owls, and Gila monsters just as they do for deer, elk and mountain lions. When you consider Arizona has hundreds of species being managed to one degree or another that is a lot for so few people to pay for.

I guess if there is one thing to wish for in 2018 it is that more people would support wildlife management. With our human population growing so fast, gobbling up so much wildlife habitat, wildlife management is more critical than ever.

If you can, buy a hunting license. If you can’t buy a waterfowl stamp or you can simply make a checkoff donation to wildlife management on your Arizona Tax Return.

So many of us enjoy wildlife but so few of us pay for the opportunity to enjoy our wildlife. We just take it for granted that it will always be there and that is an assumption that is being challenged on a daily basis.

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