Thoughts about implementing the 3Rs developed as I sit chained to my computer and write the final chapters for my book for hunter education students and young hunters: The Honorable Hunter: A Call To Action to Defend and Advance Hunting

I share two points.

One: The status of R3 teaching strategies can be, I humbly suggest, enhanced. Aspects of the strategies can become more effective and persuasive. We know the demographic downward trends in hunting and the concomitant loss of revenue from these trends. The virtuous strategies of mentoring and engaging young hunters in a hunting experience, among other strategies, are wonderful. I suggest we can do more and part of doing more includes developing strategies to encourage young hunters to commit to the ethos of hunting by seeing their role in conservation and as a participant in our country’s unique political economy. I use the phrase “the Big Picture” to guide the enrichment of the young hunter.

A lifelong commitment to hunting, as a continuing hunter and as a voter, is unlikely to take root as a consequence of one or two isolated hunting experiences, no matter how much fun or successful it is in taking wild game. A dedication to hunting, and all that it entails, including physical hunting experiences, buying equipment that generates funds for hunting and voting for issues and candidates that support hunting, is more likely to be achieved by instilling and nurturing in the young hunter her and his place in the spectrum as a steward and as a voting citizen.

The young hunter must be guided to understand that her and his participation in hunting is the singular factor that will allow hunting to survive in the democratic system that presently exists. Political insights, economic insights, moral perspectives and a sense of personal duty must be woven together into a teaching package that the young hunter can grasp and then use to advocate by action and by words that persuasively defend hunting.

Two: We can best attract and retain the young hunter—any hunter, actually—by appealing to their honor and virtuous character. I offer an analogy to support my statement. Much credible work has been done that identifies beliefs of hunters, non-hunters and anti-hunters. Such data discloses, for example, that public support for hunting for food is very high and that public support for trophy hunting is very low. Such data indicates, as another example, that public support for hunting a deer tends to be significantly higher than public support for hunting a grizzly bear or a rhinoceros.

This information is useful. My concern is the limitations of the usefulness of that information. This limitation also affects the implementation of the 3Rs. This massive accrual of data does not indicate why anyone believes whatever they believe or what they say they believe. Their beliefs are often a cauldron of misinformation, emotional self-indulgence and a refusal if not inability to deal with Nature’s harsh realities. I lecture on this point continuously.

We must get beyond mere data transmission and its resultant inextricable faulty conclusion that we know all that is needed to be known. As applies to the 3Rs, we must understand the values that inspire and motivate the young hunter and show how hunting enriches and enhances those values. This should be an easy task, because ethical hunting is virtuous for wildlife, for the land, for the culture and for the individual hunter.

This omission or underappreciation for this variable is critical because this lack of knowledge and insight impedes our ability to craft persuasive arguments to defend hunting, it impedes our ability to craft arguments to persuade people to support hunting and it impedes our ability to craft effective arguments to encourage existing hunters to sustain their commitment to hunting. Just as we cannot craft the most persuasive arguments to defend hunting unless we understand the values and character of the person that opposes hunting, we cannot refine 3R strategies unless we know and appeal to the values of the young hunter.

As an example, I have written and lectured extensively on the abuse of rhetoric in the phrase ‘trophy hunting.’ Data collection by one or more people / firms indicates that little public support exists for ‘trophy hunting.’ Yet there is no consensus on what trophy hunting means and, as a general proposition, no one knows the moral defects in the phrase ‘trophy hunting.’ Thus, our industry has been, dare I say it, rather inept in defending itself against the ‘trophy hunting’ attacks and, thus, we have been losing public support. What we see, among other lamentable phenomena, is that people believe passionately in something in which they are thoroughly ignorant. The hunting community has not capitalized on this human deficiency.

This same inability to define and defend against the ‘trophy hunting’ attack also negatively impacts the implementation of the 3Rs. Young hunters, particularly, are put on the defensive when attacked, such as killing beautiful animals, or slaughtering innocent animals, or being only concerned about getting a trophy. Many young hunters are intimidated against defending hunting or against acknowledging they participate in hunting. I suggest that effective 3R programs should include teaching rhetoric, crafting pro-hunting arguments and helping young hunters, specifically, become stronger in their ability to defend hunting.

Standing up for hunting and discerning the values and choices made by people in forming their beliefs, however, require work, skill, intellect and creativity. Mentoring and field to fork programs and youth hunts, among others, are all marvelous 3R strategies. We must, however, do more. To sustain and defend and advance hunting, the values, choices and motivations of pro-hunters and non-hunters and anti-hunters must be discerned if 3R programs are to be maximized.

Michael Sabbeth

Michael Sabbeth is the author of The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. See He is completing his soon-to-be-published book The Honorable Hunter: A Call to Action to Defend and Advance Hunting