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Don't Forget the Hunters 

Thank you for the "Wild Things" issue. I'd like to put in a word for another much-maligned predator: Me.

Like the coyote, I hunt too, and I'm fighting a bad public image. People accuse me of being unethical. They say I kill for sport. They embrace nature and try to prevent me from having a place in it. But I'm every bit as necessary to a healthy ecosystem as the coyote and the eagle, and not even in a very different way.

I am, by virtue of what I do, a conservationist. My activity helps to keep in balance that crucial relationship between predator and prey. Skeptics should note that in places where hunting is not allowed (National parks being a prime example) wildlife populations are out of balance. Coyotes, wolves, bears, and cats are doing their part, but it's not enough. Something is missing. There's an unfilled niche.

Society wants to believe that four legged predators can fill that gap, but there's a problem. Animals are unreliable. They tend to wander. They hunt where they want, not where they're needed. They kill what they can catch, not always what's most expendable. They never have nor ever will be able to fill the wildlife management role that man has occupied for eons.

The irony is that although I've been an indispensable part of nature for all these thousands of years, I'm no longer considered necessary. I'm even regarded as a hindrance to the natural process. There's a widely held belief that left to its own devices nature can cure its own ills. When it can't, wildlife officials are called in to relocate or destroy problem animals, or are forced to implement some other unnatural and less workable means of achieving balance, such as artificial sterilization.

As ugly as what I do may seem to some, a world without me is anything but natural. It's a manufactured place made to look natural to suit the sensibilities of the easily offended.

I'm reviled for my cruelty, yet whether I use a shotgun, rifle, or bow I am still far more humane in my methods than anything that kills by tooth or claw.

I'm chastised for my wastefulness, yet American roadways are littered with thousands more carcasses each year than I and all my fellow hunters combined leave in the field. Well intentioned, non-hunting suburbanites should look inward next time they need a place to post their outrage.

I'm blamed for the abuses of others. Of course each hunter brings his or her own ethical standards into the field. Some are better than others. But wildlife laws are unbendable, and non-negotiable. Those who break them are not hunters, they are criminals. Don't confuse me with them.

The true hunter has a vested interest in the welfare of wildlife, and in maintaining an ecological balance. We're conservationists. We have to be, because as Jim Anderson so aptly pointed out, "Prey controls the predators." That applies to me every bit as much as it does the coyote.

Ed Putnam

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