Author Details ‘How Sportsmen Saved The World’

Well, it sure as hell is November, this pounding rain on the third floor of the Pyramid Brewery building here in Seattle is telling me, and how better to kill time when the rivers are out than with a book?

Well, there is also waterfowling, but work with me here, fellas.

I’ve got three books going right now — plus the latest National Geographic and, if I could find it again on this disaster of an office, Montana Outdoors — but I’ve laid them all aside for a brand-new hardcover that arrived at HQ yesterday: How Sportsmen Saved The World, by E. Donnall Thomas Jr.

An eye-catching title to a Northwest sportsman’s magazine editor, that one.

Thomas, if you don’t know, is a Montana/Alaska resident who has written 15 books and whose works appear in bowhunting and gun-dog mags as well as Gray’s Sporting Journal, Big Sky Journal, Fish Alaska and Ducks Unlimited, according to his publisher, The Lyons Press

His latest book’s premise boils down to this: “Faced with human development’s ever-increasing demands upon habitat, wildlife today needs more advocates than ever before. When wildlife advocates work together, wildlife wins; when they bicker, they lose.”

Though we hunters fought and won the battle to bring wildlife back and preserve habitat for them, we’ve been losing the battle for public support for decades.

Of the 42 1/2 pages I have read so far, more than a half-dozen are dog-earred, pointing to salient thoughts of the author. Right now I’m working through the extinctions of the heath hen, Labrador duck and passenger pigeon, and near collapses of the North American bison herds and turkey flocks. All known tragedies and success stories, but Thomas makes clear the primary cause those critters were or were almost wiped out: market/commercial hunting.

Not regulated, scientifically managed sport hunting, like we practice today.

It’s a crucial, crucial difference, and one sometimes misused to blame us today for why we nearly lost those species back when.

To be sure, hunters and managers haven’t always done our quarry huge favors, even in modern times, as Worth Mathewson’s Band-tailed Pigeon: Wilderness Bird at Risk has shown in the decline and near collapse of bandtail populations on the West Coast.

But the press release that came with How Sportsman Saved the World promises Thomas will show how early conservation giants like Teddy Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold and others’ “contributions … to the environment have been far more substantial that those of ‘environmental’ organizations that have taken a stance against hunting and fishing.”

As for when public opinion began to turn away from us, early on in the book, Thomas points to the 1940s movie Bambi as the catalyst for a misidentification of the threat of hunting, but he also finds an interesting ally in Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring: “Carson showed that the real threat wasn’t coming from hunters, but from a technology-obsessed society gone awry.”

It was an “unstated” part of her book, though, and Thomas says that “hunting became a public relations casualty in the environmental consciousness Carson’s work aroused.”

And that’s a pity, because we often have the same goals as the greenies: lots of wildlife, and good habitat for them. But we’re locked into adversarial relationships instead, or deeply mistrust it when organizations like the Sierra Club announce they’re pro hunting.

I suspect, but don’t know for sure, that this book may be a great tool we can use in the defense of hunting.

We’ll see. I’ll try to keep blogging about this, but no guarantees. The Missus is very, very, very pregnant and I think I may have little time to do anything but change diapers shortly.


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