COFFEE WITH THE ARMCHAIR MAYOR — I’ve been on the lookout for a hunter I could have a good conversation with and I found one in George McKnight.
George has been a hunter for a long time and he teaches hunting and firearms courses.
I have a view of hunting that began taking form late in my teenage years. As I explained to George during our conversation for today’s CBC Daybreak Kamloops, I tried being a hunter but I was never any good at it. Couldn’t track anything and I wasn’t much of a shot.
Mainly, though, killing animals for fun came to feel rather senseless for me. It didn’t feel like sport at all. I haven’t been disappointed to see hunting on the wane.
But, says George, it’s making a comeback, big time. In the ‘70s, he said, the bush was full of animals and full of hunters but when gun control came along in the ‘80s and ‘90s “it caused a lot of people to just hang it up.”
Now, it’s booming again. “It’s back and everybody is totally surprised.” Hunting involves a lot of product — rifles, ammunition, gear, special clothing, boots and vehicles. It’s big business and brings in a lot of taxes.
The net economic benefit to B.C. of outdoor recreation including hunting and fishing is $1.4 billlion a year, George said.
Which means hunting enjoys a pretty strong lobby with government, I answered.
“Hunting isn’t for everybody,” he acknowledged in answer to my aversion to killing animals. “It would be wrong to expect everybody’s going to be a hunter.”
The important thing, he said, is to enjoy our outdoors. Kids, especially, need to get out more. He said the CORE — Conservation, Outdoor Recreation and Education — program was designed to educate all users of the outdoors, though it has evolved into primarily a guide for new hunters.
Our conversation moved back to the question of sport. “It’s pretty one-sided,” I suggested. “The animal’s choice is to die or to live.”
All the hunter has to do is drive into the bush and look for something to hunt. If he doesn’t find it, he goes home. No risk. “For the hunter, that’s the extent of the sport.”
Except, said George, many things are in place to make sure “the playing field is level,” namely regulations that control what can be hunted and where and when it can be hunted.
He pointed out that the greatest cause of death for wildlife isn’t hunting, but lack of winter food supply leading to starvation.
But, I said, I’ve never heard of a deer bagging a human. Might have happened, just never heard of it. I figured I had him on that one, but George didn’t skip a beat.
Deer, he said, aren’t the Walt Disney types we’re used to seeing in the movies. They can be dangerous.
Yeah, I said, trying again, but you’d have to get pretty close to one first, which isn’t normally easy to do.
“Deer are totally unpredictable,” said George.
We touched on trophy hunting, too, but I wasn’t expecting to resolve the debate over recreational hunting in a few minutes over a cup of coffee. I’d enjoy talking to George about it again some time, though, because he knows his stuff and discusses what can tend to be a contentious issue in a way that sheds light instead of heat.