Some Final Thoughts From Delta's Outgoing Chairman
During my tenure as chairman of the board, it’s been my great pleasure to watch Delta Waterfowl grow from a small cadre of scientists supported by a handful of forward-thinking philanthropists to an ever-growing membership-based organization that’s making an important difference for ducks.
Delta still does the best waterfowl research in the world, but the on-the-ground programs we’ve added in recent years are producing measurable change in our lifetimes. Our motivation has beenand always bethe welfare of the ducks and of duck hunting.
I’ve enjoyed witnessing and participating in this remarkable evolution, and I’d like to thank our loyal members for their generous support. As I write my last editorial before turning over the reins to my successor, there are some thoughts I’d like to leave with our members:
Hunting by humans is in no sense a modern-day "sport.” I often see reference to hunting as "sport" hunting. We should try to resist the use of this term. Hunting by humans is in no sense a modern-day "sport".
Hunting is a way of life that has roots extending to the very dawn of mankind. As Ortega y Gasset so eloquently described, hunting is the pursuit and capture of one animal by another with the requirement that they be mismatched in their senses, abilities and strength.
Hunting differs from sports in that it isn’t a game, but rather a lifelong dance with what David Petersen calls “the outside”. Hunting provides us with food, quite literally a daily human requirement; a sport does not. In my home we much prefer the wild harvest over store-bought meat killed by others. This is our desire and choice, and absolutely defines our lifestyle.
All Delta members should strive to live the proud life of hunters. Let us help others to see this vital endeavor as something much more important than any activity that would be considered a “sport”. I would encourage our members to read Ortega y Gasset’s Meditations On Hunting and Petersen’s Heartsblood.
Wildlife management means managing some living thing or things for a purpose. We will never again see inexhaustible flights of birds independent of man’s actions on this planet. For most of the years of waterfowl management we have tried to manage habitat. This indirect management tool has been proven to work in only a very specific application.
As we've pointed out previously in this column, 40 percent grass coverage on township-sized landscapes is required for success. Social, political and financial realities dictate that Ag policylike the Conservation Reserve Programis the only mechanism that offers meaningful success where waterfowl habitat is concerned.
Duck hunters should demand a change in direction and policy by our state and federal managers, and by our duck organizations. Our duck dollars should be focused on influencing Ag policy in the US and Canada and on management efforts proven to increase duck production.
Other reasonable uses of duck dollars would include supporting waterfowl research, promoting duck hunting initiatives and providing matching dollars for very specific habitat projects such as easementsnot purchaseof remaining native prairie and seasonal wetlands.
Demand accountability from your chosen conservation organization. As a hunter, know what you and the ducks are getting in return for your donation of time and money. It sometimes takes a number of years of research to discover what works and what doesn’t.
Once we find that a management tool does not produce ducks, it should immediately be abandoned. Do not give your duck dollars to organizations that return to you something that you didn’t buy.
Think hard about this point. Delta’s founder James Ford Bell said long ago that hunters want to put back more than they take. We should therefore require “birds in the air” in return for our waterfowl dollars.
Initiatives that focus on clean air, clean water and green projects have their own set of supporters and benefactors. We should strive to support all of these types of endeavors, but as duck hunters we must recognize the difference, and apply our duck dollars wisely.
Take a young person (or an uninitiated adult) hunting. This concept requires no elaboration.
Be such a champion of ethics that others look up to you. Follow the law, be courteous to landowners, generous with fellow hunters and lastbut not leastlook for the drakes.
I can only hope that my ramblings have helped move readers and managers toward those same goals. It’s been a great ride, and I thank you all.
Thomas P. Hutchens, MD