The news is not good.
Hunters across the country are in the crosshairs. It's all thanks to a greedy hunter and his negligent decisions.
If you haven't heard, officials in Zimbabwe are working to charge an American hunter with some serious crimes after he killed one of the country's coveted lions. The facts of the story are still up in the air, but one thing is certain. The news has brought hunters into the spotlight once again.
It's not the sort of publicity the sport needs, especially as we work to overcome a dwindling population of hunters. Folks all across the country are hearing about the controversy and are asking an ageless question what is so special about killing an animal, anyway?
There's no correct answer. Every hunter has his own reason why he takes to the sport. For me, hunting is the best way to understand nature at its finest. And it's a vital tool to ensure the wildlife we cherish remain healthy.
Witnessing the forest come alive while leaning against a 100-year old oak tree on a brisk fall morning and watching the eastern sky brighten with hundreds of shades of orange and yellow is one of the most impressive, yet simplest, sights in nature.
It's like the birth of a baby. It's one of the most basic functions of life, yet it's an awe-inspiring miracle each and every time it happens.
Most importantly, we don't take to the woods entirely for selfish reasons. Successful hunters are doing Mother Nature a favor. By effectively and efficiently controlling wildlife populations, our ecosystem remains in balance. As less and less hunters take to the woods, the job of wildlife management gets harder and harder.
And don't forget that hunting teaches us the true cost of living. For each of us to survive, something else must die. It's a harsh fact, but it can't be denied.
Many of us choose to use a middleman to harvest our food. We tell ourselves it's less painful to buy a turkey killed in a factory. It may be easier, but our world of supermarkets and fast-food restaurants does very little to teach us about the real value of the food we eat.
By stalking an animal and pulling the trigger, ending its life, we learn a valuable lesson about nature and the circle of life. In order to live, others must die. No book can teach younger generations this lesson half as well as a day in the woods.
Too many folks view hunting merely as the killing of wildlife — the harvesting of a trophy. The death of an animal is only the climax of the plot. The real story involves friendships, beautiful scenery, learning about nature and life itself.
The number of hunters in this country is on the decline. It's a sad fact. The trend isn't helped when selfish hunters break the rules in the name of a trophy. But that's not what hunting is about.
Hunting is a good sport, worthy of our pride.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.