Conservation is defined as the “planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction or neglect.”
America’s timeline shows hunters have played an integral role in the establishment of our nation’s land and wildlife conservation ethic.
In 1646, the local deer population near Portsmouth, Rhode Island dwindled so much that local hunters banned deer hunting from May until November to conserve the resource.
By 1720, most New England colonies followed suit.
In 1763, Massachusetts fined poachers for ignoring fledgling game laws.
In 1800, those who embraced an ethical approach to hunting called themselves “sportsmen.”
In 1806, members of the New York Sporting Club advocated the “code of the sportsman” to enforce game laws and sustain wildlife population.
In 1868, that same group pushed for a state fish commission and later lobbied Congress to form a similar federal organization – one that later became the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In 1887, George Bird Grinnell and Theodore Roosevelt, both hunters, launched the Boone and Crocket Club, that helped establish the national park and national forest systems. The club also helped protect wildlife in Yellowstone Park that later became the source for numerous elk restorations.
By 1904, sportsmen successfully lobbied 13 states to require residents to buy some sort of license to hunt.
In 1927, George Grinnell and fellow sportsmen formed the forerunner of what later became Ducks Unlimited, which would go on to create a new fundraising concept in conservation – the annual membership banquet.
In 1937, hunters approved an excise tax on guns, ammunition, and since added archery equipment, that to date raised more than $14.1 billion specifically for conservation.
Over time, more hunter-based conservation groups formed to advocate for wild turkey, mule deer, pheasants, quail, wild sheep and other wildlife.
In 1984, four elk hunters founded the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation that since protected or enhanced more than 8.1 million acres of wildlife habitat, opened or improved access to more than 1.3 million acres, helped restore elk to seven states and one Canadian province, and continues to advocate for elk, conservation and hunting.
These historic and ongoing efforts all highlight how Hunting Is Conservation.