Amendment for state’s constitution stirring debate for sportsmen


On Tuesday, Hoosiers won’t just be electing new political leaders. Voters also will be deciding if the Indiana Constitution shall be amended to include the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.

Question 1 has stirred a lot of debate over whether or not we really need a constitutional right to hunt and fish.

Folks staunchly in favor point out attempts from anti-hunting organizations, such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), to erode traditional hunting and fishing opportunities.

In my opinion, PETA is a joke; a far-left celebrity-laden shill of an organization more interested in media coverage than measurable outcomes. It’s the Humane Society you need to worry about.

The 2015 HSUS Annual Report features a picture of a male lion on the cover, which is an obvious stab at hunters over the Cecil controversy. This report shows the HSUS had total net assets of $232,721,230. They received $159,730,933 in contributions last year.

Did you make any contributions or donations to a conservation organization that supports hunting and fishing last year?

To me, it’s a shame we are at this point where we have to add language to state constitutions to protect our rights to hunt and fish. These two traditions predate our country. From the time the first pilgrims set foot in Plymouth, hunting and fishing have been thick threads in the fabric that is America.

But sadly, as time has passed, attention has waned. With each passing generation, hunting and fishing have become less and less a part of our society.

There already are 19 states across our country with Right to Hunt and Fish amendments in their constitutions. Citizens of Vermont have had the right to hunt and fish since 1777.

But the trend of constitutional amendments really began in 1996, when Alabama voted in the right. Minnesota, North Dakota and Virginia followed in the next few years. Along with Indiana, there is a right to hunt vote in Kansas this year.

For the most part, the people who hunt and fish do very little to support the traditions politically. I was recently quoted a statistic from a reliable source that said less than one percent of licensed deer hunters in America belong to a single conservation organization.

Less than 1 percent. How can that be?

Most deer hunters I know are pretty passionate. They spend thousands of dollars a year on land, licenses, equipment and travel. So how can they be unwilling to shell out $35 a year to support an organization that is on the front lines fighting to protect our resources and opportunities to enjoy those resources?

So shame on us. Shame on the sportsmen who have failed to organize the way our opposition has. I imagine many of the people strongly in favor of voting for this are the same people who claim there is too much government in their lives already. But now they want government to protect them.

I, for one, would prefer a citizen army of conservationists so broad and strong that the idea of needing a right to hunt and fish would never be necessary. But we are far from that.

So we need help — but what does this amendment really do? The answer is not much.

If this amendment passes, it could be overturned just as easily. The fact that something is in the constitution doesn’t mean it’s rock solid. If it were, the National Rifle Association (NRA), which strongly supports this amendment, wouldn’t need to exist. The Second Amendment gives us the right to keep and bear arms. So why do millions of people belong to the NRA? It’s because there are millions of people who want to see firearms outlawed. Just like there are millions of people who want to see hunting outlawed. But where is the organization of millions of sportsmen standing up for our hunting and fishing traditions?

It simply doesn’t exist, but it should.

So while there are folks out there saying we don’t need this and other conspiracy theorists claiming the amendment will actually be detrimental to the future of hunting and fishing, I must advise voting yes. Because what does voting no say? It really isn’t an option.

See you down the trail.

Brandon Butler writes an outdoors column for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].

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