Aaron is a professional gamekeeper, farmer, veteran of the war in Afghanistan and all around badass. I keep meeting Aaron at various outdoor events and training courses. Since our interests are definitely aligned, we finally decided to get together and record an episode of the podcast. During our conversation, we talk about general game management issues, woodcock shooting and conservation, lethal fox control, badger cull, hill farming and how to move forward with the wildlife and habitat conservation agenda.
In this episode of the podcast I talk with my good buddy Paul Dowling. Paul is an avid hunter and shooter. Before recording the podcast we attended the Rut Walk in Killarney National Park organized by The Wild Deer Association of Ireland. Paul is an active member of the aforementioned organization and was one of the co-organizers of the Rut Walk. As you can imagine, we talk all things deer hunting and deer management, from proper clothing to education of hunters and non-hunters alike. We also discuss what we heard and learned from the park rangers during the Rut Walk. Even if you’re not a hunter, but you love deer and are concerned about their wellbeing as a species, you should definitely listen to this episode.
A very special episode with a very special guest. Carrie Zylka is a fellow podcaster and also an avid hunter and angler. She hosts a number of podcasts but, for us, her Hunt Fish Travel podcast is especially interesting. Some of you might remember that I made an appearance on the Shark Week special of Carrie’s podcast. There are also other reasons why this podcast is special. It is the first episode of the Tommy’s Outdoors podcast recorded over the Internet and it is the first episode where my guest is an American. So it was a great occasion to talk about the specifics of hunting and fishing in the United States. We discuss the tag system, sheep hunting, anti-hunters, the issue of CWD in deer and many other topics. Also don’t forget to subscribe to her Hunt Fish Travel podcast!
My guest today, Bryan Fennell, is the Rural Recreation Officer for County Wicklow Partnership. He loves the adventures, and works to promote activities, in the wilds of Co. Wicklow. In this episode we talk about opportunities to experience the great outdoors in County Wicklow. Of course, I had to touch on the subject of the natural environment and the need to protect it. We also talk about deer stalking in the Wicklow Mountains and, on a separate note, the sometimes difficult relationship between sportsmen and ecologists.
This is a big one. Our guest, Pádraic Fogarty is the Campaign Officer at Irish Wildlife Trust and an ex-editor of the Irish Wildlife magazine. Protection and conservation of the natural world should be of the greatest importance for all outdoorsmen. For that reason, I was really excited when Pádraic accepted an invitation to the podcast. If you care about the environment, tune in and listen. We are talking not only about key conservation issues but also how to get involved and make a difference. This is not tree hugging stuff, this is a practical and down to earth discussion about the protection we all owe to Mother Nature. Also, check out Pádraic’s book “Whittled Away – Ireland’s Vanishing Nature”.
This episode is a deer season opener special! The 1st of September is approaching fast and it marks the beginning of deer hunting season in Ireland. My guest on the podcast is the Public Relations Officer for Irish Deer Commission, Damien Hannigan. We discuss deer conservation in Ireland, the position of various stakeholders on deer management, wildlife crime and many other deer related issues. It is a must-listen for all deer hunters and stalkers. Also, don’t forget to email email@example.com to book your place on the Rut Walk in Killarney National Park, taking place on the 14th of October. The event is free of charge but places are limited, so make sure to book early.
While recording episodes of the podcast I get to meet and speak with people involved in the outdoors. Most of them are interested in the use and preservation of the natural environment. Among those people two distinct groups stand out the most: sportsmen, most often represented by hunters and anglers, and ecologists as in conservationists and environmentalists. In theory, they should represent one consistent front for protection of the natural environment. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Oftentimes representatives of these groups are involved in a counterproductive confrontation with each other. So, let’s dive into this issue and try to understand some of the reasons why this is happening.
For starters, let’s look at the common ground they share. Genuine ecologists are usually research scientists or employees of governmental or non-governmental bodies involved in the protection and management of natural resources. Of course we all know there are self proclaimed, shouty types, but I’m not going to talk about them here. Whenever I have an opportunity to talk to environmentalists I always ask the question, “Do you see sportsmen as allies in the efforts to protect the environment or as adversaries?” Based on the responses so far, I gather that sportsmen are mostly recognized as important stakeholders. Ecologists also recognize that they are an invaluable source of information about the state of the environment. It is because hunters and anglers spent lots of time in the outdoors and have an opportunity to observe nature and the changes it undergoes over time. They are often referred to as the boots on the ground.
Sportsmen also recognize the important role of ecologists as a source of information about wildlife and the environment. They also recognize that ecologists work to protect the resources they interact with. Wild game and fish. And here is where the tension starts. Ecologists often feel that sportsmen repeatedly engage in practices aimed mainly at their own interest, to the detriment of conservation. For example, when engaging in catch and release, they place more importance on taking a trophy photo with the fish over promptly releasing it back to the water. On the flip side, on many occasions sportsmen consider some of the regulations as limiting their activities unnecessarily.
It is not my intention to judge which side is right. Each case is different and everybody makes mistakes. Unfortunately, as the result of these tensions, the opportunity to create a combined, strong and environmentally minded front is lost. Sportsmen are often reluctant to engage in conservation initiatives worried that their interest won’t be recognized and they will find themselves on the wrong side of the equation. On the other hand, ecologists are reluctant to reach out to sportsmen for support, being afraid of a backlash.
It is my strong belief that true hunters and anglers are also environmentalists and conservationists. It is in their own interest, after all, that the waters are full of fish and the woods are full of wild game. In fact, there are many people who belong to both groups. It is not unheard of for a game and wildlife officer to also be an avid hunter or angler. These days, the natural environment is under more pressure from human activity than ever before. Only combined efforts to protect it can be successful. Sportsmen, ecologists, environmentalists and anybody else to whom nature is dear, should pull together. They should bury the discord about the way they intend to use it, and work together to protect it. Otherwise there will be nothing left to use anyway.