Although there are a few left still, our trade show season has reached its end. Four shows and 6,500 miles in eighteen days was plenty. Much in these events has remained the same, but a new, ominous element is beginning to make appearances at the large hunting-based shows, as we are seeing protesters at almost every event.
Our first encounter with protesters at outdoor trade shows occurred a few years ago at the Dallas Safari Club convention. The picketers were out to show the world their disdain for the auction of a black rhino bull hunt in Namibia and the world seemed to be paying attention. Fox, CBS, Al Jazzera English were all there to cover the event; CNN as well, which used some of our black rhino stock footage from a previous Namibian safari. With the world watching the goings on in Dallas, the protesters were out in force to save this one, poor endangered rhino and show the world what horrible people hunters are. Except the plan backfired.
Proceeds from this hunt, 100% in fact, were donated to the Conservation Trust Fund to protect Namibia’s black rhino; 100%, as in all of it. The bull on auction was an older male that was no longer breeding, but was keeping other males away from receptive females, sometimes mortally wounding the otherwise healthy suitors. Put another way, removing this particular bull from the population would not only benefit the reproductive capacity of the herd, the proceeds from the hunt would enhance the efforts to conserve the species. But in this way, these protesters were a lot like that of the old bull. They actually hurt rhino conservation.
We know of two CEO’s of major corporations who had committed at least $1,000,000 to the Black Rhino Conservation Trust Fund for the opportunity to hunt this problem bull. But when the protestors began spewing their vitriolic stream of hate and threats, the potential donors pulled out. There was no way they could risk the public relations nightmare that would befall themselves and their companies if their name was made public. Bailing out was the prudent thing to do in light of the enormous risk the protest created. So instead of raising $1,000,000 or more to help the black rhino, the high bid was a “mere” $350,000. By their misguided sense of morality, the protestors cost black rhino conservation at least $650,000 in support. But hey, everyone has the First Amendment right to say almost whatever you like in this country, even if that speech is self-defeating.
The Safari Club International convention in Reno saw smaller-than-usual attendance, but it was still a first-class show. It is our understanding there were anti-hunting protestors somewhere, but if they were there, they certainly were not prominent. What was eye-catching was this strategically-placed billboard on the road between the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and the host hotel, the Peppermill:
Again, First Amendment and all of that, but one has to wonder if an organization really cares about saving animals, is messaging the patrons of a hunting convention with an expensive electronic billboard the best way to utilize the charity’s dollars? Why not take that money and use it improve bighorn sheep habitat or research the decline of resident mule deer? It seems that would do more to achieve the goal of protecting wildlife than protesting hunting to hunters, but then again, it was a really cool billboard.
The Dallas Safari Club and Houston Safari Club conventions both drew protestors as well. The Dallas folks have been coming for a few years now but this mob of picketers has taken a decidedly nastier turn. Their signage has become less protest and more of the personal attack variety; some attacks being more personal than others. (see title photo) We also witnessed the assault and battery, albeit a mild battery, of a DSC convention goer, while one Einstein of a protester pushed a plains-clothes cop and won a free night in the historic Dallas County lockup. (wonder if he got the Lee Harvey Oswald suite?)
New this year were Houston’s anti-hunting protesters. This is the second year HSC has moved their convention from the suburbs to downtown, and a fairly large crowd of Antifa-looking folks made their grievances known across the street from the convention and under the watchful eyes of a number of Houston’s Finest. We engaged the protesters with questions about their eating habits and no one raised their had when asked if anyone of the group was NOT a vegetarian. You can look at the photo and decide the voracity of their answer for yourself.
Granted, this report has been a bit tongue-in-cheek and it is unlikely a few Millennials with a several hours to kill is a direct threat to recreational hunting. But it does illustrate a societal trend that is moving decidedly against hunting. With more city dwelling, internet-surfing, limited physical activity Americans become further removed from Mankind’s hunting heritage, it is without doubt the “enemy” is getting larger and more bold. It is imperative we redouble our efforts to promote the many virtues of ethical hunting and actively recruit more members into our fraternity of hunting brothers and sisters. If we do not, the morals of the mob today become the wildlife management policies of tomorrow.