In a collection of essays called The Heart of the Game, the writer Thomas McGuane recounts an imaginary exchange between a hunter and a non-hunter. The exchange goes something like this,
“What did a deer ever do to you?”
“Why should they die for you? Would you die for the deer?”
This exchange could be an internal conversation within a hunter’s imagination. It is part of a deeply personal, ethically loaded set of questions that I suspect many hunters have asked themselves.
My perspective on hunting and conservation has been shaped by a wide variety of experiences and people. I have a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies and my research looked at the social and ecological dimensions of wildlife research and management in the Arctic. My research allowed me to travel throughout Canada’s north, witness breathtaking landscapes, and talk to people about their thoughts and experiences hunting and fishing. I’ve spent over 20 years backcountry camping on foot and from a canoe. I started hunting as an adult and have been fortunate to hunt a variety of big and small game over the last decade.
Landscapes and Letters is a space to discuss issues related to hunting and conservation and to reflect on my experiences with these topics.
I am interested in connecting with people to create knowledge about wildlife. Hunting has changed my life and informed my perspective on conservation. My goal is to celebrate and explore the complexities in hunting and conservation. To effectively conserve wildlife, we need multiple groups of people to engage in meaningful dialogue. I want to understand how we can build relationships, collaborate to create knowledge about wildlife, and work towards effective conservation.
I want to see a future with wildlife on the landscape. To ensure a future with healthy wildlife and ecosystems, we need positive and thoughtful dialogue. Conservation is inherently bound up in social and political issues and we need to address these multiple considerations together. We cannot separate the human and ecological dimensions of wildlife conservation. I believe that wildlife conservation needs to be driven by the best available knowledge, including both science and local knowledge. I am interested in the processes we can use to create that knowledge.
I have been involved in a number of great social and natural science research projects in different parts of Canada. I have worked as an instructor at Fleming College in Ontario in the Ecosystem Management and Ecological Restoration Programs. I have worked as the Research Manager for the Nunatsiavut Government in Nain, Labrador. I have met, worked with, and learned from inspiring people from a diversity of backgrounds about wildlife, culture, and hunting and fishing.
I am interested in conservation that bridges disciplines, boundaries, and personal identities. We need conservation that brings together consumptive and non-consumptive users of wildlife. We need to create a conservation community that is positive, inclusive, and represents a diversity of perspectives. We need conservation that transcends values, asking both “what should we do?” and “why should we do it?”
To summarize, I’ll simply rely on the hunter’s final response in Thomas McGuane’s imaginary conversation, which encapsulates what being a hunter-conservationist means to me,
Thank you for visiting,
– Paul McCarney