There isn’t much we agree on these days — with political affiliation being one of the most polarizing topics in today’s world.
Something we can agree on, though, is the importance of our natural resources, conservation of game species and getting youth involved in conserving and protecting Michigan’s abundant fish and wildlife species.
That idea culminated Tuesday evening at the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Afternoon Outdoors and Wild Game Dinner. About 20 Michigan legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, came together for an evening of trapshooting, five-stand, archery, bass fishing, trapping demonstrations, dog work and to enjoy a gourmet, wild game dinner.
Several legislators even shot their first shotgun, pulled back their first bow and dusted their first clay pigeon.
Now, more than ever, Michigan needs bipartisanship on natural resources issues. With hunter and angler numbers declining, it is important that we continue to look for ways to increase license sales — the No. 1 funder of conservation in Michigan — as well as get our youth involved in Michigan’s rich outdoor heritage.
The importance of field to table was stressed at the event. Legislators and representatives from the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Advisory Council and other partners were able to try rabbit ravioli, pheasant stir fry, elk tenderloin sliders and venison chili. Research has shown that approval of hunting significantly increases when the protein is utilized as table fare.
Michigan United Conservation Clubs Executive Director and Chair of the Michigan Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Advisory Council Dan Eichinger said events like these help pull back the veil that surrounds sportsmen and women and the activities they love.
“It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle a legislator is on,” Eichinger said. “If we can get them outside and show them the importance of Michigan’s outdoor heritage, that is the first step to ensuring that Michigan’s conservation legacy lasts far longer than any of us will be hunting our favorite deer blind or fishing our favorite stream.”
Legislators and stakeholders were able to walk the grounds of the Capital Area Sportsmen’s League and shoot a shotgun, bow or crossbow if they wished. Michigan BASS was also on hand to provide fishing demonstrations in the club’s pond, as well as Trout Unlimited to provide fly casting lessons. Dog work was performed at the pond and many legislators were able to see the hard work and effort that goes into maintaining a high-quality, four-legged hunting partner.
Michigan’s conservation community is united, said Senator Peter MacGregor (R-Rockford), one of four Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs.
“All of these great organizations coming together to celebrate our natural resources and share their passion and expertise with elected officials is a great opportunity for all of us to be the best advocates we can be for our outdoor heritage,” MacGregor said.
Our outdoor activities are so diverse in Michigan that it is important for the people setting our policies to see and experience everything our natural resources offer, Eichinger said.
“Lots of legislators may have tried deer hunting or have been fishing, but this event is designed to not only celebrate those activities, but to expand their knowledge into methods of hunting, fishing or recreational shooting that they haven’t experienced.”