My grandfather, who was a dentist by day, was a conservationist by night. On many evenings he would join friends who were building a wildlife museum at their own expense on an island in the Snake River in Idaho Falls. These men were hunters and fishermen and a lot of them had brought back trophies and had them stuffed and mounted. Their wives wanted those fine examples of the taxidermist’s art out of their houses. So, these hunters and fishermen built a museum where their trophies could be displayed.
Environmentalists of today would look down their noses at those men, but they would be wrong to do so. The museum, although rough-hewn, was built of logs, to emulate the cabins of the early settlers. While it had electricity, a wood stove and running water, it wasn’t fancy. The floors and the benches along the walls were strewn with tanned animal skins, which served as seat covers and rugs. The trophies were mounted on the walls and on tables in the middle of the room set up for that purpose.
That museum was the scene of many a discussion about how to keep fish and game from being decimated by hunters and fishermen. White-tailed deer, antelope, elk and bighorn sheep all were being over-hunted. The men dug into their own pockets to commission a movie on the problem and have it sent around to schools and hunting clubs. It didn’t happen overnight. Their pockets weren’t that deep.
These men — the ones who hunted — carried ordinary hunting rifles. They would have laughed at the idea of carrying something like an assault rifle that some modern hunters seem to think they need...
I don’t know whether the museum is still there, but I do know the white-tailed deer, the antelope, the elk and bighorn sheep still prosper in Idaho because of that private club and many others like it. Some private conservation organizations, such as Ducks Unlimited, have grown to be nationwide in scope. Hunters and fishermen, like farmers, have good reason to take care of the land and the waterways. They don’t deserve the disdain some environmental groups send their way.