In recent years, hunting and fishing tournaments have come under fire by “animal rights” organizations who don’t like the idea of animals being taken for a prize or reward. These groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Project Coyote, have been organizing against tournaments by petitioning state governments and supporting legislation to ban hunting and fishing tournaments, despite the positive impact tournaments have on local economies and the role sportsmen play in conservation.
Hunting and fishing tournaments are time-honored traditions that have grown on a national scale over time, with the general objective being the heaviest or largest take of certain species. In recent years, hunting and fishing tournaments have come under fire by “animal rights” organizations who don’t like the idea of animals being taken for a prize or reward. These groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Project Coyote, have been organizing against tournaments by petitioning state governments and supporting legislation to ban hunting and fishing tournaments, despite the impact tournaments have on local economies and the role sportsmen play in conservation.
- In 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a fishing tournament ban on national wildlife refuges, though the ban was never implemented.
- California became the first state to implement a hunting tournament ban for non-game mammals, including coyotes, foxes and bobcats, in 2014. After several failed attempts to ban the contests in the state legislature, animal rights groups turned to the California Fish and Game Commission, who then voted to ban the contests.
- Animal rights activists pushed strongly for a hunting contest ban in Nevada, but the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners rejected their petition to ban hunting contests in 2015.
- Several states introduced legislation in 2017 to outlaw hunting tournaments, including New Mexico (SB 268) and New York (SB 6365). The New Mexico legislation passed the Senate but did not come to a vote in the House before adjournment.
- A 2017 petition to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the governor’s office to ban hunting contests in the state had more than 180,000 signatures, though it was unsuccessful.
- Maryland passed SB 268 in 2017. The legislation initially proposed a permanent ban on popular bowfishing tournaments for the cownose ray, which was being heavily pushed by animal rights groups such as HSUS. A compromise was reached, and the legislation was amended to instead place a two-year moratorium on the tournaments so the Maryland Department of Natural Resources could create a management plan for the species.
Points of Interest
- Participants in hunting or fishing tournaments are still required to abide by state fish and wildlife regulations.
- Hunting tournaments are effective management tools of varmint species, such as coyotes, whose overabundance results in increased human-wildlife conflicts and attacks. It has been proven that short-term removal mechanisms, such as tournaments, can provide immediate relief to farmers and ranchers by helping reduce livestock losses due to those varmint species.
- A common argument by animal rights groups is that hunting contests aimed at taking predators will result in excessive populations of their prey species. However, studies have shown that short-term management tools for predators, such as tournaments, do not result in overabundance of prey species nor disrupt the ecosystem.
- Animal rights groups encourage “coexistence” as a management tool instead of hunting tournaments.
- When approached by coyotes, Project Coyote recommends a person “act big and make loud noises” over using a firearm. This logic can result in increased human-coyote conflicts and attacks, especially when it comes to more-vulnerable children and pets.
- Tournaments have the ability to support local economies through increased expenditures and tourism. A 2009 study showed that tourism induced by the Lake Michigan Tournament Trail generated more than $1 million in expenditures and $850,000 in economic output that year alone.
- A single Bassmaster Classic bass tournament consistently generates more than $20 million in economic impacts to host cities and communities.
- In their preparation for hunting and fishing tournaments, sportsmen contribute to the American System of Conservation Funding by purchasing gear, firearms, fuel, etc.
Legislators should only support any tournament ban or restrictions if there is a reliable, scientific basis for doing so, rather than political motivations or emotional sympathies. Both hunting and fishing tournaments are unique ways for sportsmen to participate in the great outdoors, advance conservation of our natural resources, and further contribute to local economies and the American System of Conservation Funding.
For more information regarding this issue, please contact Chris Horton at firstname.lastname@example.org
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