Our most recent issue of Sportsmen’s Monthly is dedicated to the defense of trapping as a management tool, and common myths surrounding the practice. Easily targeted by animal-rights organizations, who use emotional language to condemn it, trapping faces constant attacks because of ignorance surrounding the facts – and this ignorance doesn’t just come from the non-hunting public, it’s often embraced by some sportsmen.
The misconceptions surrounding trapping make it vulnerable to ballot-box warfare. The Humane Society of the United States and other animal-rights organizations prey upon emotions by misconstruing facts and using outdated sensational video footage.
This emotional plea is well received by an ignorant public who is easily swayed with sound bites and half-truths. But perhaps the greater threat comes from within the sportsmen’s community itself. Too many sportsmen have become indifferent to the outdoor pursuit and management tool. Because the effects of trapping are often several steps removed from impacting their favorite activity – such as deer or waterfowl hunting – general hunters don’t advocate strongly for the defense of trapping.
That is a dangerous mindset and path to take.
When trapping is removed from a state, animal-rights activists take that same initiative to other states. They also come back and try to expand the ban to include other species and seasons – until they have stopped it altogether.
And once they take trapping, they come for other niche practices – hound hunting, bait and bow hunting are prime examples.
The epitome of this is the bear-hunting ban in Maine in 2014. The Humane Society of the United States tried to ban trapping, hounding and baiting of bears – which accounts for 93 percent of the harvest. We beat them at the ballot box, but they declared in open court that they will return to try again. But this time instead of going after bait hunting, which accounts for the greatest participation (approximately 85 percent of Maine bear hunters), it’s likely they’ll try to split sportsmen and use the ballot box to stop the less popular endeavors of trapping and hound hunting first (and return later to go after the bait hunters, using a victory over traps and dogs as “proof” that the people the state don’t want bear hunting – all the while also using a victory as precedent to stop bear hunting in other states).
All sportsmen need to stand together, regardless of whether they participate in a management-tool practice such as trapping, or we’ll all fall separately.