Hunting has always been an important facet to American and human culture. Yet the history of wildlife in America could have led down an entirely different path. Since the impact of civilization is so massive, the nation’s forests, soils, water and wildlife is wholly dependent on human actions. As long as hunters and conservationists continue to conserve, manage and promote their natural resources, future generations should have a chance to enjoy what we enjoy today. The future of wildlife is in our hands, just as it has always been.

Hunting in modern America is quite different than it was centuries ago. Then, it was a critical part of daily life for native Americans, who hunted animals for food and articles used for clothing, tools and shelter. As the country was developed and communities thrived during the 19th and early 20th centuries, wildlife continued to rank high among the nation’s natural resources, but the heavy exploitation of the animals and their habitats sent native populations in a downward spiral. 

Without the help of a few key government officials and other influential citizens — Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and Franklin D. Roosevelt during the early 20th century and Richard Nixon back in the 1970s where he created the Environmental Protection Agency — wildlife populations may not have ever recovered to today’s levels.

Interest in hunting still remains high and is steadily increasing, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Every five years, the USFWS conducts a census to determine the interest in wildlife-related recreation. In their latest report, 13.7 million Americans participated in some sort of hunting activities in 2011, a 9-percent increase from the census in 2006.  Of that 13.7 million people, 1.8 million were between six to 15 years old, but it hasn’t always been that way. In the 1990s, hunter participation across the nation experienced a dramatic decline. 

On a local level, the number of hunting licenses sold fluctuates some each year, but it has remained relatively stable over the last decade. In 2012, South Carolina had approximately 142,000 active hunters, and North Carolina had 300,000 active hunters.   

There is no doubt wildlife populations have shifted from a critical, life-dependant resource to a recreational outlet. Luckily, enough interest remains throughout the nation to promote and sustain hunting into the future, but suburbia is creeping in, converting wildlife habitat into human habitat.  Hunters with an interest to see future generations in the woods and in the fields instead of perched in front of their game consoles should participate in proactive efforts nationally and locally to sustain hunting in future American households. 

One such effort is Oct. 26 at Black River Sporting Clays in Kingstree, S.C.  ArborOne Farm Credit is sponsoring “Aim At Ag — Sporting Clays Tournament” benefitting Future Farmers of America and South Carolina 4-H Shooting Sports.  This event will provide necessary funds to keep youths interested in outdoor activities, including farming, nature and shooting sports that are directly related to hunting types of recreation. Contact Charles Vernon (843-432-2340) for more information.

Around 3.5 percent of the nation’s hunters live in the Carolinas, but habitat is dwindling annually with agriculture and forestland conversion to suburban development. Stewardship of the land could not be much more important than it is right now. 

With the number of hunters staying high and habitat dwindling, the importance of resource stewardship could not be much more critical. While state governments continue to draft laws and regulations to promote wildlife resources, and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources continue to manage wildlife resources to the best of their abilities and financial capabilities, hunters have a significant obligation to conserve, protect, and manage their resources on a local, personal level. 

Since the 1980s, the technological revolution has contributed to a decline in hunting interests, pulling more young people out of the woods and sitting them in front of a computer screen than any other time in history. If hunting is part of the future, wildlife and its habitat need to shift higher on the totem pole beginning at personal level and moving outwards to sustain a viable sport every hunter in the Carolinas was born to love.