- October 10, 2016
- Doug Howlett
Ask any hunter from either Western or Eastern habitats and you’ll hear the same observation, predators are everywhere and they’re making an impact on other species. Winchester World of Whitetail host Ron Spomer offers this take on what is needed to ensure a safe balance between predators and the many game species we love to hunt.
Varmints have always been a natural and essential part of the environment. They have important roles to play in preventing overpopulations of whatever it is they eat. But historically, they’ve also been controlled by severe and often brutal natural forces like competition, starvation, a shortage of denning sites and outright internecine warfare. Coyotes kill foxes, wolves kill everything including one another, mountain lions kill wolves. Bacteria and viruses killed all of them. Now, we humans have changed everything.
We provide extra food that tides predators over during natural shortages. Fruits, vegetables, grains and even dog and cat food left on the back porch provide just enough extra nutrition to keep coyotes, skunks, raccoons, crows and the rest of the carnivorous crowd alive. Old barns, rock piles, culverts, farm equipment and even bridge overpasses provide denning sites and shelter from killing storms that formerly limited raccoons and opossums to warmer climes. Irrigated grass, alfalfa, wheat and other crops lay out a smorgasbord for a dozen species of burrowing rodents.
In short, we humans have created a world in which prey species lose habitat while predatory species gain it. It’s therefore our responsibility to balance the scales—or at least reduce the pressure a bit. If we shoot a deer and a few birds and bunnies each year, shouldn’t we also shoot a few of their predators?
In addition to Ron’s arguments for why we should hunt predators, for sportsman looking to expand their opportunities afield, predators offer a great target on two fronts.
First, many can be hunted year round, meaning you go any time you want, not in the few weeks most seasons get shoehorned into. Secondly, because many landowners would love to reduce the number of predators on their land, getting permission to hunt lands that would otherwise be closed to outside hunting is not as difficult and can in fact, even open up additional avenues for places to hunt.
If you’re concerned the growing numbers of predators are threatening your deer or other game populations where you hunt, reduce your stress by reducing some of the numbers of predators. Grab a box or two or three of quality ammo, connect with a couple of like-minded friends and hit the predator woods virtually any time your schedule permits. It can turn hunting into a year-round obsession that you can now feed year round.