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Scott Rall: I hope your list is really long

Thanksgiving has come and gone for another year. I wonder just how many folks took a few moments and pondered just what a wonderful place in the world we live in.

Life is fast and hectic, and I am sure there are more than a few people that Thanksgiving just passed on by. I wonder how many folks just plain did not have enough food to eat while the rest of the population eat to the point of being completely stuffed.

I watched a sunset and was thankful for many things. A God that watches over us was the first thought that came to mind. Great family and friends that show up every time you need them is also close to the top. How about appreciation for the job that provides us a way to care for ourselves and our families?

I also wonder what life might be like if it weren’t for those courageous volunteers of our armed services that serve all over the world to keep us safe and sacrifice their very lives to do so without a second thought. Living in the United States makes all of us very fortunate compared to the war-torn regions that exist in numbers all too large across the globe.

My thoughts drifted to my life in the outdoors.  Whenever I shoot a pheasant I always take just a few seconds to be thankful for the bounty that fills my game bag. It is easy to always want more.  If you shoot a rooster, who does not wish for a second one?  A limit is often the determining factor as to if the outing was a success. I try not to be that person.

We are so fortunate to live in a country that uses the North American Model of Conservation.  Just what is this model? It is a series of events that transpired over the past 120 years or so that is founded on two principles.  The first is that game, fish and wildlife are for the non-commercial use of the citizens and, secondly, that they be managed to achieve the optimum population levels available and in such a way as to protect them forever.

This all started when we just about killed off every one of the five million bison that used to roam North America. There were several other big game species that were close to extinction as well.

It was a groundswell of action from those closest to wildlife and its management. This model has no set rules or regulations. It has no enforcement powers. It is a set of beliefs that guides all of the major conservation organizations and has been incorporated into the guidance of, I believe, every state game and fish agency in the nation.

It allows me to go out on Thanksgiving morning to a parcel of public land and harvest a rooster without having to pay.

The ability does exclude my required license. In England and other places around the word the game and fish belong to the person who owns the land underneath their feet or wings. If you want to hunt or fish you need to pay for the privilege of doing so. Hunting becomes only a rich man’s sport.

How many of us have the ability to pay a fee every time we want to go hunting or fishing? I truly believe that life outdoors can be a relatively in-expensive pastime.  A used shotgun for a few hundred bucks and a minimum of other equipment, and you can enjoy a day in the field. Sure, you can spend thousands if you want to, but I always caught as many fish out of my 16-foot boat with a 9.9 horse power motor as I do from my other 17-foot boat with a 90 horse Yamaha on it.

There are seven tenets of the North American Model of Conservation but I will only mention two of them here. The first is that wildlife should only be killed for a legitimate purpose.

My rule is if I shoot it I eat it. If you can’t follow that rule I would recommend you quit hunting. Legitimate purposes also include population management and public safety.

The second tenet of this model I really like is the elimination of markets for game. When you can no longer sell parts of animals for profit there is less chance poachers will decimate a population just for their parts.  A rhino horn would be a good example. Ivory trade is another. Wild animals have a value but they should not be for commercial purposes.

I hope that we all take a minute this Thanksgiving weekend a ponder just what you are thankful for.

The list should be really long. I love the outdoors and spend many hours trying to protect habitat, propagate wildlife populations, improve access for all outdoor men and women and expose this great experience to those who lack the opportunity to do so. I am also thankful for those who help me in these efforts.

Have a great weekend and please try to spend some of it outside. It will be time well spent.

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