By Representative Jeff Duncan, Will Galloway, and Cyrus Baird
From the upstate down through the lowcountry, South Carolina has always celebrated its rich hunting heritage. That is why this month, sportsmen and women across the Palmetto State will take to the woods and fields in droves to take part in the fall hunting tradition that is as old as the state itself.
Despite what some uninformed anti-hunting activists may say, hunting is about deepening our connection to the natural world around us and establishing a direct connection with the food that we eat. It was President Theodore Roosevelt who famously said, “In a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen.” Roosevelt, a champion for hunter led conservation efforts, went on to say that “The excellent people who protest against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife, are ignorant of the fact that in reality the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.”
Hunters contribute the vast majority of the funding received by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources through license fees and federal excise taxes placed on firearms, ammunition, and other hunting equipment. Their department is responsible for enhancing our residents’ quality of life, both now and for future generations through improved understanding, wise use, and safe enjoyment of healthy, diverse, sustainable, and accessible natural resources. Less hunters means less funding for conservation for all of South Carolina.
In the North American model of conservation, hunters play a key role in the management of wildlife species. This proven system has helped save and manage wildlife populations in the United States for over a century. Deer hunting in particular is a key management tool used by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Deer hunting quotas as informed by wildlife population research keep populations stable and provide wildlife biologists samples and feedback that provide insight into disease spread and herd health throughout the state. It’s important to stress that legal, regulated hunting has never caused a wildlife population to become threatened or endangered in the United States.
Hunters aren’t just good for conservation and wildlife management; they are also a vital part of our local economy. South Carolina boasts close to 850,000 sportsmen and women across the state who routinely spend millions of dollars each year during their pursuits. Hunters provide an overall average economic contribution of $2.74 billion while supporting almost 32,000 jobs throughout the state.
In a time when our country is still feeling the impacts of a global pandemic, hunting has turned into a safe way for Americans to recharge, reconnect, and more importantly, social distance. For South Carolina to continue to enjoy its bountiful natural resources and robust wildlife populations, we need a robust population of sportsmen and women, too.
Representative Jeff Duncan has served South Carolina’s 3rd congressional district since 2011. Will Galloway is a Clemson University student and avid hunter. Cyrus Baird is the Manager of Government Relations at the Safari Club International and a graduate of Clemson University with a degree in Wildlife Biology.