An Open Camp for Conservation

When hunters and non-hunters unite, we can accomplish great things for conservation.

(This column originally appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Michigan Out-of-Doors as "The Wild Life." Join Michigan United Conservation Clubs to subscribe at www.mucc.org!)

At the end of January, a bill (H.R. 621) was introduced in Congress which would have sold 3.3 million acres of federal public land. Rather than give up and complain later, outdoorsmen and women took action and lit up the phone lines, inbox and social media accounts of the Congressman who drafted the bill. Within a week, the bill was withdrawn

It would be tempting to say that it was sportsmen and sportswomen who accomplished this, but the fact of the matter is that, alone, we do not have that kind of clout. We were joined by environmentalists and backpackers who have probably never worked a bolt, nocked an arrow or cleaned a deer. But they love public land and the outdoors just as much. 

This past October, I went backpack bowhunting in the Porcupine Mountains with a couple friends of mine. They arrived before me, and I was to hike in five miles from the trailhead to meet them at the campsite. On the hike in, I met a backpacker who, like me, had brought a hammock and tarp instead of a tent. He had planned to pitch camp up on the escarpment, but the high winds would have had him swinging like a pendulum. He asked if I knew of any campsites near where ours was farther down the trail, but since this was my first time to the Porkies, I didn't. So I invited him to our campsite. 

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(L-R) Bob Busch, Jason Meekhof and Scott Masters at camp in the Porcupine Mountains

As we hiked toward it in the dark, I learned he was also from northern Michigan and was a Bay City firefighter. He was backpacking solo for the weekend, but he used to hunt sometimes. As my headlight dimmed, he took the lead with a brighter headlight and fresh batteries. We found the campsite, talked around the campfire and we're all still Facebook friends. 

In Ben East's account of how Ray Dick preserved the Porcupine Mountains, he didn't do it by speaking only to those who hunted and fished. He was joined by gardening clubs and Audubon groups, too. In Steven Rinella's interview, he said that antagonism isn't the answer to keeping our hunting rights. It's reaching that silent majority of non-hunters in the middle. Some of them might even be those very environmentalists or backpackers we find on the trail through the public lands we all share.

And if we welcome them into our camp, they might even help us light the way. Hunt Your Hunt. -DY

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